News of the WeekNeurobiology

Shedding Light on Visual Imagination

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Science  02 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5411, pp. 22
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5411.22a

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Neurobiologists have long puzzled over the question of whether the visual imagery that occurs when the brain imagines an image works the same way as when the brain processes a real image from the retina. Results described on page 167 now suggest that it does. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which temporarily disrupts the functions of specific brain areas, a team of neuroscientists found evidence that the primary visual cortex, the first part of the cerebral cortex to receive retinal information, is necessary for at least some visual imagery as well. If TMS works as it seems to, it could provide neuroscientists with the ability to safely manipulate cognitive processing in humans to help pin down the functions of the various brain areas.