Feedforward and quick recurrent processes in early visual cortex revealed by TMS?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can be applied to occipital cortex to abolish (conscious) perception of visual stimuli. TMS research has revealed several time windows of masking relative to visual stimulus onset, most consistently a time window around 100ms post-stimulus. However, the exact nature of visual processing in this 'classical' time window, e.g. whether it represents the feedforward processing of the visual information, or rather a feedback projection from higher visual areas, remains unclear. Here, we used TMS to mask in the same participants two types of stimuli of different complexities (orientation Gratings and Faces) over different time windows. Interestingly, the masking functions were not the same for both stimulus types. We found an earlier peak masking latency for orientation stimuli, and a slower recovery for Faces. In a second, follow-up experiment, we superimposed both types of stimuli to create one composite stimulus set. Depending on the instruction, participants could then perform orientation or face discrimination tasks on the exact same stimuli. In addition, for each participant, stimuli were calibrated to equate task difficulties. The peak masking latency was now identical for both tasks, but the masking function revealed again a slower recovery during the face discrimination task, suggesting top-down (recurrent) effects in the second half of the masking function. Hence, rather than this masking window reflecting either feedforward or feedback processing, the early part of what is traditionally considered one masking window may reflect feedforward processing, while the latter part may already reflect recurrent processing. These findings shed new light on recurrent models of vision and related theoretical accounts of visual awareness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-659
Number of pages9
JournalNeuroimage
Volume61
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2012

Keywords

  • COIL STIMULATION
  • HUMAN OCCIPITAL CORTEX
  • INDUCED PHOSPHENES
  • MACAQUE MONKEY
  • OBJECTIVE MEASURES
  • RESPONSE LATENCIES
  • REVERSE HIERARCHIES
  • STRIATE CORTEX
  • TRANSCRANIAL MAGNETIC STIMULATION
  • UNCONSCIOUS VISION

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