Connectivity Reveals Sources of Predictive Coding Signals in Early Visual Cortex During Processing of Visual Optic Flow

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Superimposed on the visual feed-forward pathway, feedback connections convey higher level information to cortical areas lower in the hierarchy. A prominent framework for these connections is the theory of predictive coding where high-level areas send stimulus interpretations to lower level areas that compare them with sensory input. Along these lines, a growing body of neuroimaging studies shows that predictable stimuli lead to reduced blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) responses compared with matched nonpredictable counterparts, especially in early visual cortex (EVC) including areas V1-V3. The sources of these modulatory feedback signals are largely unknown. Here, we re-examined the robust finding of relative BOLD suppression in EVC evident during processing of coherent compared with random motion. Using functional connectivity analysis, we show an optic flow-dependent increase of functional connectivity between BOLD suppressed EVC and a network of visual motion areas including MST, V3A, V6, the cingulate sulcus visual area (CSv), and precuneus (Pc). Connectivity decreased between EVC and 2 areas known to encode heading direction: entorhinal cortex (EC) and retrosplenial cortex (RSC). Our results provide first evidence that BOLD suppression in EVC for predictable stimuli is indeed mediated by specific high-level areas, in accord with the theory of predictive coding.

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