Unconscious processing of unattended features in human visual cortex

Tatiana Aloi Emmanouil, Philip Burton, Tony Ro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Unconscious processing has been convincingly demonstrated for task-relevant feature dimensions. However, it is possible that the visual system is capable of more complex unconscious operations, extracting visual features even when they are unattended and task irrelevant. In the current study, we addressed this question by measuring unconscious priming using a task in which human participants attended to a target object's shape while ignoring its color. We measured both behavioral priming effects and primingrelated fMRI activations from primes that were unconsciously presented using metacontrast masking. The results showed faster RTs and decreases in fMRI activation only when the primes were identical to the targets, indicating that primes were processed both in the attended shape and the unattended color dimensions. Reductions in activation were observed in early visual areas, including primary visual cortex, as well as in feature-responsive areas for shape and color. These results indicate that multiple features can be unconsciously encoded and possibly bound using the same visual networks activated by consciously perceived images.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-337
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of cognitive neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013


Dive into the research topics of 'Unconscious processing of unattended features in human visual cortex'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this