Intra-hemispheric integration underlies perception of tilt illusion

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Abstract

The integration of inputs across the entire visual field into a single conscious experience is fundamental to human visual perception. This integrated nature of visual experience is illustrated by contextual illusions such as the tilt illusion, in which the perceived orientation of a central grating appears tilted away from its physical orientation, due to the modulation by a surrounding grating with a different orientation. Here we investigated the relative contribution of local, intra-hemispheric and global, inter-hemispheric integration mechanisms to perception of the tilt illusion. We used Dynamic Causal Modelling of fMRI signals to estimate effective connectivity in human early visual cortices (V1, V2, V3) during bilateral presentation of a tilt illusion stimulus. Our analysis revealed that neural responses associated with the tilt illusion were modulated by intra- rather than inter-hemispheric connectivity. Crucially, across participants, intra-hemispheric connectivity in V1 correlated with the magnitude of the tilt illusion, while no such correlation was observed for V1 inter-hemispheric connectivity, or V2, V3 connectivity. Moreover, when the illusion stimulus was presented unilaterally rather than bilaterally, the illusion magnitude did not change. Together our findings suggest that perception of the tilt illusion reflects an intra-hemispheric integration mechanism. This is in contrast to the existing literature, which suggests inter-hemispheric modulation of neural activity as early as V1. This discrepancy with our findings may reflect the diversity and complexity of integration mechanisms involved in visual processing and visual perception.

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