From which regions of the brain do conscious representations of visual stimuli emerge? This is an important but controversial issue in neuroscience because some studies have reported a major role of the higher visual regions of the ventral pathway in conscious perception, whereas others have found neural correlates of consciousness as early as in the primary visual areas and in the thalamus. One reason for this controversy has been the difficulty in focusing on neural activity at the moment when conscious percepts are generated in the brain, excluding any bottom–up responses (not directly related to consciousness) that are induced by stimuli. In this study, we address this issue with a new approach that can induce a rapid change in conscious perception with little influence from bottom–up responses. Our results reveal that the first consciousness-related activity emerges from the higher visual region of the ventral pathway. However, this activity is rapidly diffused to the entire brain, including the early visual cortex. These results thus integrate previous “higher” and “lower” views on the emergence of neural correlates of consciousness, providing a new perspective for the temporal dynamics of consciousness.

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