Brain stimulation and conscious experience

Consciousness and Cognition
D A Pollen


Libet discovered that a substantial duration (> 0.5-1.0 s) of direct electrical stimulation of the surface of the somatosensory cortex at threshold currents is required before human subjects can report that a conscious somatosensory experience had occurred. Using a reaction time method we confirm that a similarly long stimulation duration at threshold currents is required for activation of elementary visual experiences (phosphenes) in human subjects following stimulation of the surface of the striate cortex. However, the reaction times for the subject to respond to the cessation of the visual experience after the end of electrical stimulation could be as brief as 225-242 ms. We also carried out extensive studies in cats under a variety of anesthetic conditions using the same electrodes and parameters of stimulation employed in the human studies to study the patterns of neuronal activity beneath the stimulating surface electrode. Whereas sufficiently strong currents can activate neurons within milliseconds, stimulating currents close to threshold activate sustained neural activity only after at least 350-500 ms. When currents are close to threshold, some neurons are inhibited for several hundreds of millisecond before the balanc...Continue Reading


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