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Anastasia V. Flevaris, Antigona Martínez, Steven A. Hillyard; Neural substrates of perceptual integration during bistable object perception. Journal of Vision 2013;13(13):17. doi: 10.1167/13.13.17.
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The way we perceive an object depends both on feedforward, bottom-up processing of its physical stimulus properties and on top-down factors such as attention, context, expectation, and task relevance. Here we compared neural activity elicited by varying perceptions of the same physical image—a bistable moving image in which perception spontaneously alternates between dissociated fragments and a single, unified object. A time-frequency analysis of EEG changes associated with the perceptual switch from object to fragment and vice versa revealed a greater decrease in alpha (8–12 Hz) accompanying the switch to object percept than to fragment percept. Recordings of event-related potentials elicited by irrelevant probes superimposed on the moving image revealed an enhanced positivity between 184 and 212 ms when the probes were contained within the boundaries of the perceived unitary object. The topography of the positivity (P2) in this latency range elicited by probes during object perception was distinct from the topography elicited by probes during fragment perception, suggesting that the neural processing of probes differed as a function of perceptual state. Two source localization algorithms estimated the neural generator of this object-related difference to lie in the lateral occipital cortex, a region long associated with object perception. These data suggest that perceived objects attract attention, incorporate visual elements occurring within their boundaries into unified object representations, and enhance the visual processing of elements occurring within their boundaries. Importantly, the perceived object in this case emerged as a function of the fluctuating perceptual state of the viewer.
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