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Wohlschläger, Afra M.; Glim, Sarah; Shao, Junming; Draheim, Johanna; Köhler, Lina; Lourenco, Susana; Riedl, Valentin and Sorg, Christian (2016): Ongoing Slow Fluctuations in V1 Impact on Visual Perception. In: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Vol. 10, 411 [PDF, 2MB]

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The human brain's ongoing activity is characterized by intrinsic networks of coherent fluctuations, measured for example with correlated functional magnetic resonance imaging signals. So far, however, the brain processes underlying this ongoing blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) signal orchestration and their direct relevance for human behavior are not sufficiently understood. In this study, we address the question of whether and how ongoing BOLD activity within intrinsic occipital networks impacts on conscious visual perception. To this end, backwardly masked targets were presented in participants' left visual field only, leaving the ipsi-lateral occipital areas entirely free from direct effects of task throughout the experiment. Signal time courses of ipsi-lateral BOLD fluctuations in visual areas V1 and V2 were then used as proxies for the ongoing contra-lateral BOLD activity within the bilateral networks. Magnitude and phase of these fluctuations were compared in trials with and without conscious visual perception, operationalized by means of subjective confidence ratings. Our results show that ipsilateral BOLD magnitudes in V1 were significantly higher at times of peak response when the target was perceived consciously. A significant difference between conscious and non-conscious perception with regard to the pre-target phase of an intrinsic-frequency regime suggests that ongoing V1 fluctuations exert a decisive impact on the access to consciousness already before stimulation. Both effects were absent in V2. These results thus support the notion that ongoing slow BOLD activity within intrinsic networks covering V1 represents localized processes that modulate the degree of readiness for the emergence of visual consciousness.

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