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Temporal characteristics of global motion processing revealed by transcranial magnetic stimulation


Dr Laura K. Stevens, as above.


The ability to detect the motion of objects is critical to survival, and understanding the cortical mechanisms involved in this process remains a key challenge in sensory neuroscience. A relatively new approach to this problem is to temporarily disrupt processing at specific cortical sites and measure the behavioural consequences. Several previous studies have shown that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of human visual area V5/MT disrupts global motion perception, but reports vary widely in the timescale of this effect. To resolve this issue we employed psychophysical techniques to investigate how discrimination of translational, rotational and radial global motion is affected by TMS. Prior to applying TMS we established baseline coherence thresholds for global motion perception. Adopting each observer’s coherence level at threshold we examined how TMS delivered to V5/MT modulated performance. Importantly, we measured the influence of single-pulse TMS over a broad temporal range to reveal the fine temporal structure of the disruption profile for global motion perception. Results show that the disruption profile consisted of two distinct epochs during which global direction judgments were reliably impaired, separated by an interval in which performance was unaffected. The bimodal nature of the distribution profiles is consistent with feedforward and feedback processing between visual areas mediating global motion processing. We present a novel quantitative model that characterizes the contribution of each process to visual motion perception.