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A generic mechanism for perceptual organization in the parietal cortex

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Grassi,  PR
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Zaretskaya,  N
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Bartels,  A
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Grassi, P., Zaretskaya, N., & Bartels, A. (2018). A generic mechanism for perceptual organization in the parietal cortex. The Journal of Neuroscience, 38(32), 7158-7169. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0436-18.2018.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-B528-6
Abstract
Our visual system's ability to group visual elements into meaningful entities and to separate them from others is referred to as scene segmentation. Visual motion often provides a powerful cue for this process as parallax or coherence can inform the visual system about scene or object structure. Here we tested the hypothesis that scene segmentation by motion cues relies on a common neural substrate in the parietal cortex. We used fMRI and a set of three entirely distinct motion stimuli to examine scene segmentation in the human brain. The stimuli covered a wide range of high-level processes, including perceptual grouping, transparent motion and depth perception. All stimuli were perceptually bistable such that percepts alternated every few seconds while the physical stimulation remained constant. The perceptual states were asymmetric, in that one reflected the default (non-segmented) interpretation, and the other the non-default (segmented) interpretation. We confirmed behaviorally that upon stimulus presentation, the default percept was always perceived first, before perceptual alternations ensued. Imaging results showed that across all stimulus classes perceptual scene-segmentation was associated with an increase of activity in the posterior parietal cortex together with a decrease of neural signal in the early visual cortex. This pattern of activation is compatible with predictive coding models of visual perception, and suggests that parietal cortex hosts a generic mechanism for scene segmentation.