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Paper in Journal of Neuroscience
  • Harris, J. A., Karlov, L., & Clifford, C. W. G. (2006). Localization of tactile stimuli depends on conscious detection. Journal of Neuroscience, 26, 948-952.

    Neurological reports of "tactile blindsight" suggest that the human somatosensory system can extract behaviorally useful information about the location of a tactile stimulus in the absence of conscious awareness that the stimulus occurred (Paillard et al., 1983; Rossetti et al., 1995). However, in a series of psychophysical experiments with neurologically-intact subjects we found no evidence for such a dissociation in our subjects‚ ability to name the finger on which a tactile stimulus had been presented was dependent on their ability to consciously detect that stimulus (Harris et al., 2004). The present experiments follow up on this study, and specifically sought evidence for a dissociation when subjects were required to indicate the location of the stimulus either by pointing at or moving the stimulated finger, the same response made by the neurological patients. Once again localization accuracy was correlated with detection and, crucially, when both detection and localization were measured using equivalent forced-choice tasks, the subjects were completely unable to identify the location of stimuli that they had not detected. These findings are inconsistent with the dissociation implied by the cases of tactile blindsight, but are consistent with other neurological evidence that detection of a tactile stimulus does not depend on localization (Head and Holmes, 1911; Halligan et al., 1995; Rapp et al., 2002).