How does the brain sustain a visual percept?

Research paper by C M CM Portas, B A BA Strange, K J KJ Friston, R J RJ Dolan, C D CD Frith

Indexed on: 15 Jun '00Published on: 15 Jun '00Published in: Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society


Perception involves the processing of sensory stimuli and their translation into conscious experience. A novel percept can, once synthesized, be maintained or discarded from awareness. We used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to separate the neural responses associated with the maintenance of a percept, produced by single-image, random-dot stereograms, from the response evoked at the onset of the percept. The latter was associated with distributed bilateral activation in the posterior thalamus and regions in the occipito-temporal, parietal and frontal cortices. In contrast, sustained perception was associated with activation of the pre-frontal cortex and hippocampus. This observation suggests that sustaining a visual percept involves neuroanatomical systems which are implicated in memory function and which are distinct from those engaged during perceptual synthesis.