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The Role of Area 17 in Visual Imagery: Convergent Evidence from PET and rTMS

Science  02 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5411, pp. 167-170
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5411.167

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Abstract

Visual imagery is used in a wide range of mental activities, ranging from memory to reasoning, and also plays a role in perception proper. The contribution of early visual cortex, specifically Area 17, to visual mental imagery was examined by the use of two convergent techniques. In one, subjects closed their eyes during positron emission tomography (PET) while they visualized and compared properties (for example, relative length) of sets of stripes. The results showed that when people perform this task, Area 17 is activated. In the other, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) was applied to medial occipital cortex before presentation of the same task. Performance was impaired after rTMS compared with a sham control condition; similar results were obtained when the subjects performed the task by actually looking at the stimuli. In sum, the PET results showed that when patterns of stripes are visualized, Area 17 is activated, and the rTMS results showed that such activation underlies information processing.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: smk{at}wjh.harvard.edu

  • Present address: Service de Neurologie et de Neuropsychologie, C.H.U. Hôpital de la Timone, Marseille, France.

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