Transcranial magnetic stimulation of right inferior parietal cortex causally influences prefrontal activation for visual detection

Eur J Neurosci. 2017 Dec;46(12):2807-2816. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13743. Epub 2017 Nov 6.


For effective interactions with the environment, the brain needs to form perceptual decisions based on noisy sensory evidence. Accumulating evidence suggests that perceptual decisions are formed by widespread interactions amongst sensory areas representing the noisy sensory evidence and fronto-parietal areas integrating the evidence into a decision variable that is compared to a decisional threshold. This concurrent transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)-fMRI study applied 10 Hz bursts of four TMS (or Sham) pulses to the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) to investigate the causal influence of IPS on the neural systems involved in perceptual decision-making. Participants had to detect visual signals at threshold intensity that were presented in their left lower visual field on 50% of the trials. Critically, we adjusted the signal strength such that participants failed to detect the visual stimulus on approximately 30% of the trials allowing us to categorise trials into hits, misses and correct rejections (CR). Our results show that IPS-relative to Sham-TMS attenuated activation increases for misses relative to CR in the left middle and superior frontal gyri. Critically, while IPS-TMS did not significantly affect participants' performance accuracy, it affected how observers adjusted their response times after making an error. We therefore suggest that activation increases in superior frontal gyri for misses relative to correct responses may not be critical for signal detection performance, but rather reflect post-decisional processing such as metacognitive monitoring of choice accuracy or decisional confidence.

Keywords: concurrent TMS-fMRI; error monitoring; metacognition; perceptual decision making; transcranial magnetic stimulation; visual perception.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Visual Perception*