The Neural Signature of Subliminal Visuomotor Priming: Brain Activity and Functional Connectivity Profiles

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Abstract

Unconscious visuomotor priming defined as the advantage in reaction time (RT) or accuracy for target shapes mapped to the same (congruent condition) when compared with a different (incongruent condition) motor response as a preceding subliminally presented prime shape has been shown to modulate activity within a visuomotor network comprised of parietal and frontal motor areas in previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies. The present fMRI study investigated whether, in addition to changes in brain activity, unconscious visuomotor priming results in a modulation of functional connectivity profiles. Activity associated with congruent compared with incongruent trials was lower in the bilateral inferior and medial superior frontal gyri, in the inferior parietal lobules, and in the right caudate nucleus and adjacent portions of the thalamus. Functional connectivity increased under congruent relative to incongruent conditions between ventral visual stream areas (e.g., calcarine, fusiform, and lingual gyri), the precentral gyrus, the supplementary motor area, posterior parietal areas, the inferior frontal gyrus, and the caudate nucleus. Our findings suggest that an increase in coupling between visuomotor regions, reflecting higher efficiency of processing, is an important neural mechanism underlying unconscious visuomotor priming, in addition to changes in the magnitude of activation.

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