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Neuroreport. 2000 Dec 18;11(18):3957-62.

Cortical activation evoked by visual mental imagery as measured by fMRI.

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Center for Cognitive Science, University of Freiburg, Germany.


One of the major controversies in cognitive neuroscience is whether the primary visual cortex and nearby areas are involved in visual mental imagery. In an fMRI study we examined the brain activity of 10 healthy subjects under different task conditions: in the perception condition subjects saw complex geometrical shapes and had to decide whether other highlighted stimuli fell inside or outside the figure. In the imagery condition subjects saw only the highlighted stimuli and were instructed to imagine the previously studied geometrical shapes to solve the same task. Although the behavioral data show a distance effect that would be expected based on topographically organized mental images, the functional imaging data do not show increased activity in the primary visual cortex in the imagery condition. In the occipital cortex a slightly increased activity was found only in the visual association cortex (BA 19), whereas the highest activation was observed in the parietal cortex (BA 7 and 40). The results of the study do not support the assumption that the primary visual cortex is involved in visual mental imagery, but rather that a network of spatial subsystems and higher visual areas appears to be involved.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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