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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

April 2012, Vol. 24, No. 4, Pages 854-867
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00185)
© 2012 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dissociation between Awareness and Spatial Coding: Evidence from Unilateral Neglect
Article PDF (298.85 KB)

Prevalent theories about consciousness propose a causal relation between lack of spatial coding and absence of conscious experience: The failure to code the position of an object is assumed to prevent this object from entering consciousness. This is consistent with influential theories of unilateral neglect following brain damage, according to which spatial coding of neglected stimuli is defective, and this would keep their processing at the nonconscious level. Contrary to this view, we report evidence showing that spatial coding and consciousness can dissociate. A patient with left neglect, who was not aware of contralesional stimuli, was able to process their color and position. However, in contrast to (ipsilesional) consciously perceived stimuli, color and position of neglected stimuli were processed separately. We propose that individual object features, including position, can be processed without attention and consciousness and that conscious perception of an object depends on the binding of its features into an integrated percept.