The thalamocortical inhibitory network controls human conscious perception

Jeehye Seo, Dae Jin Kim, Sang Han Choi, Hyoungkyu Kim, Byoung Kyong Min

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although conscious perception is a fundamental cognitive function, its neural correlates remain unclear. It remains debatable whether thalamocortical interactions play a decisive role in conscious perception. To clarify this, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) where flickering red and green visual cues could be perceived either as a non-fused colour or fused colour. Here we show significantly differentiated fMRI neurodynamics only in higher-order thalamocortical regions, compared with first-order thalamocortical regions. Anticorrelated neurodynamic behaviours were observed between the visual stream network and default-mode network. Its dynamic causal modelling consistently provided compelling evidence for the involvement of higher-order thalamocortical iterative integration during conscious perception of fused colour, while inhibitory control was revealed during the non-fusion condition. Taken together with our recent magnetoencephalography study, our fMRI findings corroborate a thalamocortical inhibitory model for consciousness, where both thalamic inhibitory regulation and integrative signal iterations across higher-order thalamocortical regions are essential for conscious perception.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119748
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. Peter Zeidman, Dr. Hae-Jeong Park, and Dr. Huijin Song for their valuable comments and analytic discussion. We are also thankful to Eul-Seok Hong and Jechoon Park for their kind assistance during the data acquisition and analysis. This work was supported by the Convergent Technology R&D Program for Human Augmentation (grant number 2020M3C1B8081319 to B.-K.M.), which is funded by the Korean government through the National Research Foundation of Korea. The authors declare no competing interests.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Conscious perception
  • Default-mode network
  • Illusory colour
  • Thalamic reticular nucleus
  • Thalamocortical inhibitory network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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