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Moshe Bar, Shira Baror; What’s real? Prefrontal facilitations and distortions. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):11a. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.11a.
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By now, we know that visual perception involves much more than bottom-up processing. Specifically, we have shown that object recognition is facilitated, sometimes even afforded, by top-down projections from the lateral and inferior prefrontal cortex. Next we have found that the medial prefrontal cortex, in synchrony with the para-hippocampal cortex and the retrosplenial cortex form the ‘contextual associations network’, a network that is sensitive to associative information in the environment and which utilizes contextual information to generate predictions about objects. By using various behavioral and imaging methods, we found that contextual processing facilitates object recognition very early in perception. Here, we go further to discuss the overlap of the contextual associations network with the default mode network and its implications to enhancing conscious experience, within and beyond the visual realm. We corroborate this framework with findings that imply that top-down predictions are not limited to visual information but are extracted from social or affective contexts as well. We present recent studies that suggest that although associative processes take place by default, they are nonetheless context dependent and may be inhibited according to goals. We will further discuss clinical implications, with recent findings that demonstrate how activity in the contextual associations network is altered in visual tasks performed by patients experiencing major depressive disorder. To conclude, contextual processing, sustained by the co-activation of frontal and memory-relate brain regions, is suggested to constitute a critical mechanism in perception, memory and thought in the healthy brain.
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