Perna, A., Tosetti, M., Montanaro, D. & Morrone, M. C. (2008).

BOLD response to spatial phase congruency in human brain,J Vis, 10 (8), 15 11-15.

Human psychophysical observations, computational models, and the selectivity of neurons in primary visual cortex all suggest that an early step in visual processing is the detection of features such as lines and edges. However, previous fMRI experiments investigating the responses of early visual areas to phase coherence have led to apparently discordant results. We studied the human brain BOLD responses to structured periodic band-pass images of matched amplitude spectrum but of different phase spectra, arranged to create three distinct types of stimuli: pure edges; pure lines (matched global and local energy to the edges, but different phase); and random noise (random phase spectrum, hence no salient features, and a different spatial distribution of local energy from the lines and edges stimuli). Alternation of lines against edges did not activate primary visual cortex, but did activate two higher order visual areas. Alternation of these lines or edges against the random stimulus produced a strong activity in many visual areas, including primary visual cortex. Interestingly, the BOLD activity was higher for the edges and lines than for the random stimuli for a wide range of stimulus contrasts, indicating the presence of non-linear gain modulation in the cell response. These results show that phase congruency is coded at the level of primary visual cortex. We show that a stage of response gain modulation can explain our present and previous fMRI discordant results.