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Cereb Cortex. 2004 May;14(5):575-85. Epub 2004 Mar 28.

Enhanced temporal non-linearities in human object-related occipito-temporal cortex.

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Department of Neurobiology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


To what extent does neural activation in human visual cortex follow the temporal dynamics of the optical retinal stimulus? Specifically, to what extent does stimulus evoked neural activation persist after stimulus termination? In the present study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore the resulting temporal non-linearities across the entire constellation of human visual areas. Gray-scale images of animals, houses and faces were presented at two different presentation rates - 1 and 4 Hz - and the fMRI signal was analyzed in retinotopic and in high order occipito-temporal visual areas. In early visual areas and the motion sensitive area MT/V5, a fourfold increase in stimulus presentation rate evoked a twofold increase in signal amplitude. However, in high order visual areas, signal amplitude increased only by 25%. A control experiment ruled out the possibility that this difference was due to signal saturation ('ceiling') effects. A likely explanation for the stronger non-linearities in occipito-temporal cortex is a persistent neuronal activation that continues well after stimulus termination in the 1 Hz condition. These persistent activations might serve as a short term (iconic) memory mechanism for preserving a trace of the stimulus even in its absence and for future integration with temporally correlated stimuli. Two alternative models of persistence (inhibitory and excitatory) are proposed to explain the data.

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