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PLoS One. 2010 Oct 29;5(10):e13775. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013775.

Knowing with which eye we see: utrocular discrimination and eye-specific signals in human visual cortex.

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  • 1Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London, United Kingdom.


Neurophysiological and behavioral reports converge to suggest that monocular neurons in the primary visual cortex are biased toward low spatial frequencies, while binocular neurons favor high spatial frequencies. Here we tested this hypothesis with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Human participants viewed flickering gratings at one of two spatial frequencies presented to either the left or the right eye, and judged which of the two eyes was being stimulated (utrocular discrimination). Using multivoxel pattern analysis we found that local spatial patterns of signals in primary visual cortex (V1) allowed successful decoding of the eye-of-origin. Decoding was above chance for low but not high spatial frequencies, confirming the presence of a bias reported by animal studies in human visual cortex. Behaviorally, we found that reliable judgment of the eye-of-origin did not depend on spatial frequency. We further analyzed the mean response in visual cortex to our stimuli and revealed a weak difference between left and right eye stimulation. Our results are thus consistent with the interpretation that participants use overall levels of neural activity in visual cortex, perhaps arising due to local luminance differences, to judge the eye-of-origin. Taken together, we show that it is possible to decode eye-specific voxel pattern information in visual cortex but, at least in healthy participants with normal binocular vision, these patterns are unrelated to awareness of which eye is being stimulated.

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