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The human brain is inherently limited in the information it can make consciously accessible. When people monitor a rapid stream of visual items for two targets, they typically fail to see the second target if it occurs within 200–500 ms of the first, a phenomenon called the attentional blink (AB). The neural basis for the AB is poorly understood, partly because conventional neuroimaging techniques cannot resolve visual events displayed close together in time. Here we introduce an approach that characterises the precise effect of the AB on behaviour and neural activity. We employ multivariate encoding analyses to extract feature-selective information carried by randomly-oriented gratings. We show that feature selectivity is enhanced for correctly reported targets and suppressed when the same items are missed, whereas irrelevant distractor items are unaffected. The findings suggest that the AB involves both short- and long-range neural interactions between visual representations competing for access to consciousness.
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