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Curr Biol. 2003 Jun 17;13(12):1038-41.

Feedback contributions to visual awareness in human occipital cortex.

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Department of Psychology-MS 25, Rice University, 6100 Main Street, Houston, TX 77005, USA.


It has traditionally been assumed that processing within the visual system proceeds in a bottom-up, feedforward manner from retina to higher cortical areas. In addition to feedforward processing, it is now clear that there are also important contributions to sensory encoding that rely upon top-down, feedback (reentrant) projections from higher visual areas to lower ones. By utilizing transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in a metacontrast masking paradigm, we addressed whether feedback processes in early visual cortex play a role in visual awareness. We show that TMS of visual cortex, when timed to produce visual suppression of an annulus serving as a metacontrast mask, induces recovery of an otherwise imperceptible disk. In addition to producing disk recovery, TMS suppression of an annulus was greater when a disk preceded it than when an annulus was presented alone. This latter result suggests that there are effects of the disk on the perceptibility of the subsequent mask that are additive and are revealed with TMS of the visual cortex. These results demonstrate spatial and temporal interactions of conscious vision in visual cortex and suggest that a prior visual stimulus can influence subsequent perception at early stages of visual encoding via feedback projections.

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