Cortical evidence accumulation for perceptual experience occurs irrespective of reports


Perceptual experience is a multi-faceted, dynamical process, tackled empirically through measures of stimulus detectability and confidence. To assess if stimulus detection and confidence can be explained by evidence accumulation, a form of sequential sampling of sensory evidence, we analyzed high-gamma activity from stereo-electroencephalographic data of 29 participants partaking in 3 pre-registered experiments. In an immediate-response experiment, individual channels and decoded multivariate latent variables in the visual, inferior frontal, and anterior insular cortices displayed functional markers of evidence accumulation. In two further experiments, this signal in the ventral visual cortex differentiated between (1) seen and unseen stimuli in delayed detection, (2) high and low intensity stimuli during passive viewing, and (3) levels of confidence when stimuli were seen. A computational model of leaky evidence accumulation successfully reproduced both behavioral and neural data. Overall, these results indicate that evidence accumulation explains key aspects of perceptual experience, encompassing both conscious access and monitoring.