A key property of the brain is to anticipate and predict future events. Following the early insights of von Helmoltz more than a hundred years ago, there is now abundant research showing that expectations/predictions play a large role in every aspect of cognitive functioning, from perception to action. However, the role of expectations in determining conscious content is poorly understood. The objective of the present project is to establish the scope of influence of expectations on conscious perception: .
Do all expectations affect conscious perception? Or only a subset? What, if any, are the necessary neural accompaniments to effective expectations?
To answer these questions, we will employ binocular rivalry, fMRI and MEG to determine the functional and neural boundaries of the influence of expectations on conscious perception.
Functionally, we will test whether expectation-inducing stimuli have to be consciously perceived, attended, or accompanied by low-level retinal changes, in order to influence subsequent conscious perception.
At a neural level, we will explore the neural changes that accompany expectation-based influences on conscious perception, using both bottom-up (data driven) and top-down (theory-driven) approaches. For the latter, we will explore relations between effective expectations and recurrent processing, causal density, and 'global broadcasting' of neural signals. Our results will integrate two rapidly advancing areas of the cognitive and brain sciences: predictive coding, and consciousness science, shedding important new light on each.
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