Widespread suppression of high-order visual cortex during blinks and external predictable visual interruptions

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Tal GolanRafael Malach


Spontaneous eye blinks generate frequent potent interruptions to the retinal input and yet go unnoticed. As such, they provide an attractive approach to the study of the neural correlates of visual awareness. Here, we tested the potential role of predictability in generating blink-related effects using fMRI. While participants attentively watched still images of faces and houses, we monitored naturally occurring spontaneous blinks and introduced three kinds of matched visual interruptions: cued voluntary blinks, self-initiated (and hence, predictable) external darkenings, and physically similar but unpredictable external darkenings. These events' impact was inspected using fMRI across the visual hierarchy. In early visual cortex, both spontaneous and voluntary blinks, as well as predictable and unpredictable external darkenings, led to largely similar positive responses in peripheral representations. In mid- and high-level visual cortex, all predictable conditions (spontaneous blinks, voluntary blinks, and self-initiated external darkenings) were associated with signal decreases. In contrast, unpredictable darkenings were associated with signal increases. These findings suggest that general-purpose prediction-related mechanisms...Continue Reading

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