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Topographical representations of mental images in primary visual cortex

Nature volume 378, pages 496498 (30 November 1995) | Download Citation

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Abstract

WE report here the use of positron emission tomography (PET) to reveal that the primary visual cortex is activated when subjects close their eyes and visualize objects. The size of the image is systematically related to the location of maximal activity, which is as expected because the earliest visual areas are spatially organized1–5. These results were only evident, however, when imagery conditions were compared to a non-imagery baseline in which the same auditory cues were presented (and hence the stimuli were controlled); when a resting baseline was used (and hence brain activation was uncontrolled), imagery activation was obscured because of activation in visual cortex during the baseline condition. These findings resolve a debate in the literature about whether imagery activates early visual cortex6–11 and indicate that visual mental imagery involves 'depictive' representations, not solely language-like descriptions12–14. Moreover, the fact that stored visual information can affect processing in even the earliest visual areas suggests that knowledge can fundamentally bias what one sees.

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Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • Stephen M. Kosslyn
    • , William L. Thompson
    •  & Irene J. Klm
  2. Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA

    • Stephen M. Kosslyn
  3. Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA

    • Nathaniel M. Alpert

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https://doi.org/10.1038/378496a0

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