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Keywords:

  • alpha-band;
  • cortical excitability;
  • human;
  • occipital transcranial magnetic stimulation;
  • spatial cueing;
  • visual perception

Abstract

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the occipital pole can produce an illusory percept of a light flash (or ‘phosphene’), suggesting an excitatory effect. Whereas previous reported effects produced by single-pulse occipital pole TMS are typically disruptive, here we report the first demonstration of a location-specific facilitatory effect on visual perception in humans. Observers performed a spatial cueing orientation discrimination task. An orientation target was presented in one of two peripheral placeholders. A single pulse below the phosphene threshold applied to the occipital pole 150 or 200 ms before stimulus onset was found to facilitate target discrimination in the contralateral compared with the ipsilateral visual field. At the 150-ms time window contralateral TMS also amplified cueing effects, increasing both facilitation effects for valid cues and interference effects for invalid cues. These results are the first to show location-specific enhanced visual perception with single-pulse occipital pole stimulation prior to stimulus presentation, suggesting that occipital stimulation can enhance the excitability of visual cortex to subsequent perception.