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Curr Biol. 2007 May 15;17(10):862-7. Epub 2007 Apr 26.

Behavioral detection of electrical microstimulation in different cortical visual areas.

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Department of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


The extent to which areas in the visual cerebral cortex differ in their ability to support perceptions has been the subject of considerable speculation. Experiments examining the activity of individual neurons have suggested that activity in later stages of the visual cortex is more closely linked to perception than that in earlier stages [1-9]. In contrast, results from functional imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and lesion studies have been interpreted as showing that earlier stages are more closely coupled to perception [10-15]. We examined whether neuronal activity in early and later stages differs in its ability to support detectable signals by measuring behavioral thresholds for detecting electrical microstimulation in different cortical areas in two monkeys. By training the animals to perform a two-alternative temporal forced-choice task, we obtained criterion-free thresholds from five visual areas--V1, V2, V3A, MT, and the inferotemporal cortex. Every site tested yielded a reliable threshold. Thresholds varied little within and between visual areas, rising gradually from early to later stages. We similarly found no systematic differences in the slopes of the psychometric detection functions from different areas. These results suggest that neuronal signals of similar magnitude evoked in any part of visual cortex can generate percepts.

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