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Conference Papers Year : 2021

Breathing rhythm shapes conscious access and the ability to guess


At the threshold for conscious perception, the very same stimulus may or may not access consciousness, depending on the observer’s cognitive state [1]. In such a context, subliminal information can be temporarily maintained in non-conscious working memory (WM), as evidenced by the ability to guess above chance level unseen stimuli features [2]. However, little is known about the influence of biological rhythms on the variability of conscious access and non-conscious WM. Building on recent findings highlighting the respiratory modulation of human cognition [3], we measured the breathing phase (inhalation vs exhalation) of thirty participants during a near-threshold Gabor orientation discrimination task [4]. Importantly, when the Gabor was not consciously perceived, observers were required to make a guess on its orientation. In addition, participants had to report as fast as possible by a button press pseudo-randomized occurrences (10% of trials) of a brief supraliminal white point. Reaction time on this parallel task was used as a measure of attention levels. Given the large interindividual variability in non-conscious WM, we used an unsupervised machine learning approach, together with classical signal detection theory, to dissociate the bad from the good guessers. For bad guessers (n=17), exhalation impaired conscious processing, as evidenced by lower perceptual awareness and longer reaction times in the parallel attentional task. In contrast, for good guessers (n=13), exhalation improved non-conscious WM. Taken together, these results suggest that the human brain prioritizes the conscious processing of external events during inhalation, while information perceived during exhalation is preferentially processed non-consciously.
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hal-03443349 , version 1 (23-11-2021)


  • HAL Id : hal-03443349 , version 1


Ludovic Molle, Alexandre Coste, Charles-Etienne Benoit, Stefan Janaqi, S. Perrey, et al.. Breathing rhythm shapes conscious access and the ability to guess. ACAPS 2021 - 19ème congrès international des chercheurs en Activités Physiques et Sportives, Oct 2021, Montpellier, France. ⟨hal-03443349⟩
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