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Cortical microstimulation influences perceptual judgements of motion direction

An Erratum to this article was published on 09 August 1990


NEURONS in the visual cortex respond selectively to perceptually salient features of the visual scene, such as the direction and speed of moving objects, the orientation of local contours, or the colour or relative depth of a visual pattern. It is commonly assumed that the brain constructs its percept of the visual scene from information encoded in the selective responses of such neurons. We have now tested this hypothesis directly by measuring the effect on psychophysical performance of modifying the firing rates of physiologically characterized neurons. We required rhesus monkeys to report the direction of motion in a visual display while we electrically stimulated clusters of directionally selective neurons in the middle temporal visual area (MT, or V5), an extrastriate area that plays a prominent role in the analysis of visual motion information1–8. Microstimulation biased the animals' judgements towards the direction of motion encoded by the stimulated neurons. This result indicates that physiological properties measured at the neuronal level can be causally related to a specific aspect of perceptual performance.

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Salzman, C., Britten, K. & Newsome, W. Cortical microstimulation influences perceptual judgements of motion direction. Nature 346, 174–177 (1990).

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