- Neurobiological correlates of orientation-specific interocular transfer in humans (2008)
- Visual information is processed hierarchically in the human visual system. Early during processing basic features are analysed separately while at later stages of processing, they are integrated into a unified percept. By investigating a basic visual feature and following its integration at different levels of processing one can identify specific patterns. In certain visual impairments, these patterns can function defectively and their detailed study can clarify the cause of the visual deficit. Here we investigate orientation as a basic feature and use a property of the visual system called adaptation. Adaptation occurs as a decrease in the level of neural activity during repetitive presentation of the same stimulus. Psychophysical studies have shown that adaptation transfers interocularly, meaning that if only one eye is adapted the other eye shows also adaptation effects. Our aim was to investigate interocular transfer by means of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Even though adaptation was demonstrated in the fMRI environment, the interocular transfer was never investigated in such a setup. First, we developed a method to measure interocular transfer of adaptation to gratings with fMRI. We then went further to test it in various groups of subjects. In normally sighted humans interocular transfer was present both in early (striate) as well as later visual areas (extrastriate). In subjects with impaired stereovision (with or without normal visual acuity) interocular transfer was absent in the investigated regions. Detailed analysis of the recorded differences between subjects with and subjects without stereovision was performed. The results of this analysis are presented in detail in this book. These results suggest that the neuronal mechanisms involved in the interocular transfer of pattern adaptation share, at least in part, the neural circuitry underlying binocular functions and stereopsis. We conclude that fMRI adaptation can be used for the assessment of cortical binocularity in humans with normal and impaired stereopsis. Further investigations are needed to address more subtle aspects of the lack of interocular transfer. Towards this purpose, through a fourth experiment we propose further directions that might shed more light on the issue of stereovision and its clinical implications. We show that carefully tuned variations in our experimental procedure might reveal other aspects of binocularity in the human visual system. We believe that the method we developed, apart from the interesting results shown here, has a high potential to be further used for other research questions. Following the above summarized ideas, the thesis comprises of three parts (chapters). The first chapter provides the main theoretical backgrounds of the visual system and of the MRI imaging technique, chapter two describes the experimental procedures while the results and their detailed discussion are detailed in chapter three.