Visual awareness, emotion, and gamma band synchronization

Qian Luo, Derek Mitchell, Xi Cheng, Krystal Mondillo, Daniel McCaffrey, Tom Holroyd, Frederick Carver, Richard Coppola, James Blair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


What makes us become aware? A popular hypothesis is that if cortical neurons fire in synchrony at a certain frequency band (gamma), we become aware of what they are representing. We tested this hypothesis adopting brain-imaging techniques with good spatiotemporal resolution and frequency-specific information. Specifically, we examined the degree to which increases in event-related synchronization (ERS) in the gamma band were associated with awareness of a stimulus (its detectability) and/or the emotional content of the stimulus. We observed increases in gamma band ERS within prefrontal-anterior cingulate, visual, parietal, posterior cingulate, and superior temporal cortices to stimuli available to conscious awareness. However, we also observed increases in gamma band ERS within the amygdala, visual, prefrontal, parietal, and posterior cingulate cortices to emotional relative to neutral stimuli, irrespective of their availability to conscious access. This suggests that increased gamma band ERS is related to, but not sufficient for, consciousness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1896-1904
Number of pages9
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Consciousness
  • Emotion
  • Gamma
  • MEG
  • Synchronization
  • Visual awareness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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