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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Aug 5;105(31):10984-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0712043105. Epub 2008 Jul 29.

Spontaneous local variations in ongoing neural activity bias perceptual decisions.

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Unité 562, Cognitive Neuroimaging, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France.


Neural variability in responding to identical repeated stimuli has been related to trial-by-trial fluctuations in ongoing activity, yet the neural and perceptual consequences of these fluctuations remain poorly understood. Using functional neuroimaging, we recorded brain activity in subjects who reported perceptual decisions on an ambiguous figure, Rubin's vase-faces picture, which was briefly presented at variable intervals of > or = 20 s. Prestimulus activity in the fusiform face area, a cortical region preferentially responding to faces, was higher when subjects subsequently perceived faces instead of the vase. This finding suggests that endogenous variations in prestimulus neuronal activity biased subsequent perceptual inference. Furnishing evidence that evoked sensory responses, we then went on to show that the pre- and poststimulus activity interact in a nonlinear way and the ensuing perceptual decisions depend upon the prestimulus context in which they occur.

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