Brain correlates of automatic visual change detection

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A number of studies support the presence of visual automatic detection of change, but little is known about the brain generators involved in such processing and about the modulation of brain activity according to the salience of the stimulus. The study presented here was designed to locate the brain activity elicited by unattended visual deviant and novel stimuli using fMRI. Seventeen adult participants were presented with a passive visual oddball sequence while performing a concurrent visual task. Variations in BOLD signal were observed in the modality-specific sensory cortex, but also in non-specific areas involved in preattentional processing of changing events. A degree-of-deviance effect was observed, since novel stimuli elicited more activity in the sensory occipital regions and at the medial frontal site than small changes. These findings could be compared to those obtained in the auditory modality and might suggest a “general” change detection process operating in several sensory modalities.

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