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J Exp Psychol Gen. 1988 Sep;117(3):248-57.

Electrophysiological evidence for a shared representational medium for visual images and visual percepts.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213-3890.

Abstract

Does mental imagery involve the activation of representations in the visual system? Systematic effects of imagery on visual signal detection performance have been used to argue that imagery and the perceptual processing of stimuli interact at some common locus of activity (Farah, 1985). However, such a result is neutral with respect to the question of whether the interaction occurs during modality-specific visual processing of the stimulus. If imagery affects stimulus processing at early, modality-specific stages of stimulus representation, this implies that the shared stimulus representations are visual, whereas if imagery affects stimulus processing only at later, amodal stages of stimulus representation, this implies that imagery involves more abstract, postvisual stimulus representations. To distinguish between these two possibilities, we repeated the earlier imagery-perception interaction experiment while recording event-related potentials (ERPs) to stimuli from 16 scalp electrodes. By observing the time course and scalp distribution of the effect of imagery on the ERP to stimuli, we can put constraints on the locus of the shared representations for imagery and perception. An effect of imagery was seen within 200 ms following stimulus presentation, at the latency of the first negative component of the visual ERP, localized at the occipital and posterior temporal regions of the scalp, that is, directly over visual cortex. This finding provides support for the claim that mental images interact with percepts in the visual system proper and hence that mental images are themselves visual representations.

PMID:
2971761
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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