Effective connectivity within human primary visual cortex predicts interindividual diversity in illusory perception

J Neurosci. 2013 Nov 27;33(48):18781-91. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4201-12.2013.


Visual perception depends strongly on spatial context. A classic example is the tilt illusion where the perceived orientation of a central stimulus differs from its physical orientation when surrounded by tilted spatial contexts. Here we show that such contextual modulation of orientation perception exhibits trait-like interindividual diversity that correlates with interindividual differences in effective connectivity within human primary visual cortex. We found that the degree to which spatial contexts induced illusory orientation perception, namely, the magnitude of the tilt illusion, varied across healthy human adults in a trait-like fashion independent of stimulus size or contrast. Parallel to contextual modulation of orientation perception, the presence of spatial contexts affected effective connectivity within human primary visual cortex between peripheral and foveal representations that responded to spatial context and central stimulus, respectively. Importantly, this effective connectivity from peripheral to foveal primary visual cortex correlated with interindividual differences in the magnitude of the tilt illusion. Moreover, this correlation with illusion perception was observed for effective connectivity under tilted contextual stimulation but not for that under iso-oriented contextual stimulation, suggesting that it reflected the impact of orientation-dependent intra-areal connections. Our findings revealed an interindividual correlation between intra-areal connectivity within primary visual cortex and contextual influence on orientation perception. This neurophysiological-perceptual link provides empirical evidence for theoretical proposals that intra-areal connections in early visual cortices are involved in contextual modulation of visual perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Individuality
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Optical Illusions / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychophysics
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult