What is it about?

Awareness and attention are not the same, and can be separated. How do they relate? Here we show that a part of the human brain, the right temporoparietal junction, may be involved in a specific relationship in which awareness of an item helps control attention on that item.

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Why is it important?

The brain basis of consciousness is one of the central questions in modern science, not only providing insight about ourselves, but also potentially transforming computer technology and the future of artificial intelligence. Several lines of research are beginning to converge on an answer. One of the most promising topics in this research is the close working relationship between consciousness and attention. Our experiment helps to clarify that relationship.


Consciousness is often said to be an unsolvable mystery and fundamentally unapproachable by science. That tradition is rapidly turning out to be wrong. More and more data are accumulating, showing how specific mechanisms in the brain relate to conscious experiences. Here we explore the close relationship between focusing attention on something and having a conscious experience of that something. The results are one more step toward understanding the brain's capacity for conscious awareness.

Michael Graziano
Princeton University

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This page is a summary of: Attention, awareness, and the right temporoparietal junction, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2026099118.
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