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Cortical suppression in human primary visual cortex predicts individual differences in illusory tilt perception

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Seymour, K., Stein, T., Clifford, C., & Sterzer, P. (2018). Cortical suppression in human primary visual cortex predicts individual differences in illusory tilt perception. Journal of Vision, 18(11): 3, pp. 1-10. doi:10.1167/18.11.3.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-82D2-8
Neural responses to visual stimuli are modulated by spatial and temporal context. For example, in primary visual cortex (V1), responses to an oriented target stimulus will be suppressed when embedded within an oriented surround stimulus. This suppression is orientation-specific, with the largest suppression observed when stimuli in the neuron's classical receptive field and surround are of similar orientation. In human psychological experiments, the tilt illusion and tilt aftereffect demonstrate an effect of context on perceived orientation of a target stimulus. Similar to the neurophysiological data, the strength of these effects is modulated by the orientation difference between the target stimulus and context. It has been hypothesized that the neural mechanism underlying both the tilt illusion and tilt aftereffect involves orientation-tuned inhibition in V1. However, to date there is no direct evidence linking human perception of these illusions with measurements of inhibition from human visual cortex. Here, we measured context-induced suppression of neural responses in human visual cortex using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In the same participants, we also measured magnitudes of their tilt illusion and tilt aftereffect. Our data revealed a significant relationship between the magnitude of neural suppression in V1 and size of the tilt illusion and tilt aftereffect. That is, participants who showed stronger blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) suppression in V1 also perceived stronger shifts in illusory tilt. This agreement between perception and neural responses in human V1 suggests a shared inhibitory mechanism that mediates both spatial and temporal effects of context in human perception.