Since about two decades neuroscientists have systematically faced the problem of consciousness: the aim is to discover the neural activity specifically related to conscious perceptions, i.e. the biological properties of what philosophers call qualia. In this view, a neural correlate of consciousness (NCC) is a precise pattern of brain activity that specifically accompanies a particular conscious experience. Almost all studies aimed at investigating the NCC have been carried out in the visual system. One of the most promising paradigms is based on sensory stimuli which elicit bistable percepts, as they allow to decouple subjective perception from the characteristics of the physical stimulation. Such kind of perception can be produced in the visual modality by using particular images (e.g. Rubin's vase/face figure) or by presenting two dissimilar stimuli separately to the two eyes (binocular rivalry). The stimuli compete for perceptual dominance and each image is visible in turn for a few seconds, while the other is suppressed. The use of this methodology has led to important findings concerning visual consciousness, which are briefly discussed. For the investigation of auditory consciousness, a similar stimulation paradigm can be achieved by using dichotic listening, consisting in two different stimuli presented each to one ear, which compete for perception (binaural rivalry). The principal aim of the present mini-review is to discuss the few contributes facing the issue of auditory consciousness and to advance the use of dichotic listening and binaural rivalry as valid tools for its investigation.
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