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The integration of bottom-up and top-down signals in human perception in health and disease

By R.S. Weil

Abstract

To extract a meaningful visual experience from the information falling on the retina, the visual system must integrate signals from multiple levels. Bottom-up signals provide input relating to local features while top-down signals provide contextual feedback and reflect internal states of the organism. In this thesis I will explore the nature and neural basis of this integration in two key areas. I will examine perceptual filling-in of artificial scotomas to investigate the bottom-up signals causing changes in perception when filling-in takes place. I will then examine how this perceptual filling-in is modified by top-down signals reflecting attention and working memory. I will also investigate hemianopic completion, an unusual form of filling-in, which may reflect a breakdown in top-down feedback from higher visual areas. The second part of the thesis will explore a different form of top-down control of visual processing. While the effects of cognitive mechanisms such as attention on visual processing are well-characterised, other types of top-down signal such as reward outcome are less well explored. I will therefore study whether signals relating to reward can influence visual processing. To address these questions, I will employ a range of methodologies including functional MRI, magnetoencephalography and behavioural testing in healthy participants and patients with cortical damage. I will demonstrate that perceptual filling-in of artificial scotomas is largely a bottom-up process but that higher cognitive functions can modulate the phenomenon. I will also show that reward modulates activity in higher visual areas in the absence of concurrent visual stimulation and that receiving reward leads to enhanced activity in primary visual cortex on the next trial. These findings reveal that integration occurs across multiple levels even for processes rooted in early retinotopic regions, and that higher cognitive processes such as reward can influence the earliest stages of cortical visual processing

Publisher: UCL (University College London)
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.ucl.ac.uk.OAI2:19906
Provided by: UCL Discovery

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