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Exp Brain Res. 2009 Jan;192(3):431-41. doi: 10.1007/s00221-008-1496-4. Epub 2008 Jul 29.

Interhemispheric transfer of phosphenes generated by occipital versus parietal transcranial magnetic stimulation.

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Department of Neurological and Vision Sciences, Section of Physiology, University of Verona, Strada le Grazie 8, 37134, Verona, Italy.


Phosphenes represent a perceptual effect of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or electric stimulation of visual cortical areas. One likely neural basis for the generation of static phosphenes is the primary visual cortex (V1) although evidence is controversial. A peculiar feature of V1 is that it has sparse callosal connections with the exception of a central portion of visual field representation. In contrast, visually responsive cortical areas in the parietal lobe have widespread callosal connections. Thus, interhemispheric transfer (IT) time of off-centre phosphenes should be slower when generated by V1 than by visual parietal areas. To verify this possibility, in Exp. 1 we measured IT of phosphenes generated by TMS applied to V1 and in Exp. 2 we measured IT of phosphenes obtained by TMS applied to posterior parietal cortex. In both experiments, we obtained static bright circular phosphenes appearing in the contralateral hemifield. We measured IT time behaviorally by comparing unimanual simple reaction time to the onset of a phosphene under crossed or uncrossed hemifield-hand condition (Poffenberger paradigm). In keeping with our prediction, we found a substantially longer IT time for V1 than for parietal phosphenes. Additionally, an IT similar to that obtained with V1 stimulation was found when participants were asked to imagine the phosphenes previously experienced during TMS. In conclusion, the present results suggest that IT of phosphenes either generated by V1 TMS or imagined is subserved by slower callosal channels than those of real visual stimuli or parietal phosphenes.

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