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Curr Biol. 2000 Jan 13;10(1):16-22.

The functional neuroanatomy of implicit-motion perception or representational momentum.

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  • 1Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry and GKT School of Medicine, London, UK. c.senior@iop.kcl.ac.uk



When we view static scenes that imply motion - such as an object dropping off a shelf - recognition memory for the position of the object is extrapolated forward. It is as if the object in our mind's eye comes alive and continues on its course. This phenomenon is known as representational momentum and results in a distortion of recognition memory in the implied direction of motion. Representational momentum is modifiable; simply labelling a drawing of a pointed object as 'rocket' will facilitate the effect, whereas the label 'steeple' will impede it. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore the neural substrate for representational momentum.


Subjects participated in two experiments. In the first, they were presented with video excerpts of objects in motion (versus the same objects in a resting position). This identified brain areas responsible for motion perception. In the second experiment, they were presented with still photographs of the same target items, only some of which implied motion (representational momentum stimuli). When viewing still photographs of scenes implying motion, activity was revealed in secondary visual cortical regions that overlap with areas responsible for the perception of actual motion. Additional bilateral activity was revealed within a posterior satellite of V5 for the representational momentum stimuli. Activation was also engendered in the anterior cingulate cortex.


Considering the implicit nature of representational momentum and its modifiability, the findings suggest that higher-order semantic information can act on secondary visual cortex to alter perception without explicit awareness.

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