Right Parietal Cortex Plays a Critical Role in Change Blindness

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There is increasing evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that visual awareness is not only associated with activity in ventral visual cortex but also with activity in the parietal cortex. However, due to the correlational nature of neuroimaging, it remains unclear whether this parietal activity plays a causal role in awareness. In the experiment presented here we disrupted activity in right or left parietal cortex by applying repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over these areas while subjects attempted to detect changes between two images separated by a brief interval (i.e. 1-shot change detection task). We found that rTMS applied over right parietal cortex but not left parietal cortex resulted in longer latencies to detect changes and a greater rate of change blindness compared with no TMS. These results suggest that the right parietal cortex plays a critical role in conscious change detection.

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