Previous studies indicate that conscious face perception may be related to neural activity in a large time window around 170–800 msec after stimulus presentation, yet in the majority of these studies changes in conscious experience are confounded with changes in physical stimulation. Using multivariate classification on MEG data recorded when participants reported changes in conscious perception evoked by binocular rivalry between a face and a grating, we showed that only MEG signals in the 120–320 msec time range, peaking at the M170 around 180 msec and the P2m at around 260 msec, reliably predicted conscious experience. Conscious perception could not only be decoded significantly better than chance from the sensors that showed the largest average difference, as previous studies suggest, but also from patterns of activity across groups of occipital sensors that individually were unable to predict perception better than chance. In addition, source space analyses showed that sources in the early and late visual system predicted conscious perception more accurately than frontal and parietal sites, although conscious perception could also be decoded there. Finally, the patterns of neural activity associated with conscious face perception generalized from one participant to another around the times of maximum prediction accuracy. Our work thus demonstrates that the neural correlates of particular conscious contents (here, faces) are highly consistent in time and space within individuals and that these correlates are shared to some extent between individuals.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (online), 2013, Vol 25, Issue 6, p. 969-985