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No evidence for neural overlap between unconsciously processed and imagined stimuli

Dijkstra, N; van Gaal, S; Geerligs, L; Bosch, SE; van Gerven, MAJ; (2021) No evidence for neural overlap between unconsciously processed and imagined stimuli. eNeuro , Article ENEURO.0228-21.2021. 10.1523/ENEURO.0228-21.2021. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Visual representations can be generated via feedforward or feedback processes. The extent to which these processes result in overlapping representations remains unclear. Previous work has shown that imagined stimuli elicit similar representations as perceived stimuli throughout the visual cortex. However, while representations during imagery are indeed only caused by feedback processing, neural processing during perception is an interplay of both feedforward and feedback processing. This means that any representational overlap could be due to overlap in feedback processes. In the current study we aimed to investigate this issue by characterizing the overlap between feedforward- and feedback-initiated category-representations during imagery, conscious perception and unconscious processing using fMRI in humans of either sex. While all three conditions elicited stimulus representations in left lateral occipital cortex (LOC), significant similarities were only observed between imagery and conscious perception in this area. Furthermore, connectivity analyses revealed stronger connectivity between frontal areas and left LOC during conscious perception and imagery compared to unconscious processing. Together, these findings can be explained by the idea that long-range feedback modifies visual representations, thereby reducing representational overlap between purely feedforward and feedback-initiated stimulus representations measured by fMRI. Neural representations influenced by feedback, either stimulus-driven (perception) or purely internally-driven (imagery), are however relatively similar.Significance statementPrevious research has shown substantial neural overlap between imagery and perception, suggesting overlap between bottom-up and top-down processes. However, because conscious perception also involves top-down processing, this overlap could instead reflect similarity in feedback processes. In this study, we showed that the overlap between perception and imagery disappears when stimuli are rendered unconscious via backward masking, suggesting reduced overlap between purely bottom-up and top-down generated representations.

Type: Article
Title: No evidence for neural overlap between unconsciously processed and imagined stimuli
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1523/ENEURO.0228-21.2021
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1523/ENEURO.0228-21.2021
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2021 Dijkstra et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly attributed.
Keywords: Consciousness, Mental imagery, Perception, Unconscious processing
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10135871
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