Perceived visual time depends on motor preparation and direction of hand movements, Sci Rep, (6), 27947.

Perceived time undergoes distortions when we prepare and perform movements, showing compression and/or expansion for visual, tactile and auditory stimuli. However, the actual motor system contribution to these time distortions is far from clear. In this study we investigated visual time perception during preparation of isometric contractions and real movements of the hand in two different directions (right/left). Comparable modulations of visual event-timing are found in the isometric and in the movement condition, excluding explanations based on movement-induced sensory masking or attenuation. Most importantly, and surprisingly, visual time depends on the movement direction, being expanded for hand movements pointing away from the body and compressed in the other direction. Furthermore, the effect of movement direction is not constant, but rather undergoes non-monotonic modulations in the brief moments preceding movement initiation. Our findings indicate that time distortions are strongly linked to the motor system, and they may be unavoidable consequences of the mechanisms subserving sensory-motor integration.

A shared numerical representation for action and perception, Elife, (5).

Humans and other species have perceptual mechanisms dedicated to estimating approximate quantity: a sense of number. Here we show a clear interaction between self-produced actions and the perceived numerosity of subsequent visual stimuli. A short period of rapid finger-tapping (without sensory feedback) caused subjects to underestimate the number of visual stimuli presented near the tapping region; and a period of slow tapping caused overestimation. The distortions occurred both for stimuli presented sequentially (series of flashes) and simultaneously (clouds of dots); both for magnitude estimation and forced-choice comparison. The adaptation was spatially selective, primarily in external, real-world coordinates. Our results sit well with studies reporting links between perception and action, showing that vision and action share mechanisms that encode numbers: a generalized number sense, which estimates the number of self-generated as well as external events.

Adaptation to numerosity requires only brief exposures, and is determined by number of events, not exposure duration, J Vis, 10 (16), 22.

Exposure to a patch of dots produces a repulsive shift in the perceived numerosity of subsequently viewed dot patches. Although a remarkably strong effect, in which the perceived numerosity can be shifted by up to 50% of the actual numerosity, very little is known about the temporal dynamics. Here we demonstrate a novel adaptation paradigm that allows numerosity adaptation to be rapidly induced at several distinct locations simultaneously. We show that not only is this adaptation to numerosity spatially specific, with different locations of the visual field able to be adapted to high, low, or neutral stimuli, but it can occur with only very brief periods of adaptation. Further investigation revealed that the adaptation effect was primarily driven by the number of unique adapting events that had occurred and not by either the duration of each event or the total duration of exposure to adapting stimuli. This event-based numerosity adaptation appears to fit well with statistical models of adaptation in which the dynamic adjustment of perceptual experiences, based on both the previous experience of the stimuli and the current percept, acts to optimize the limited working range of perception. These results implicate a highly plastic mechanism for numerosity perception, which is dependent on the number of discrete adaptation events, and also demonstrate a quick and efficient paradigm suitable for examining the temporal properties of adaptation.

Numerosity but not texture-density discrimination correlates with math ability in children, Dev Psychol, 8 (52), 1206-1216.

Considerable recent work suggests that mathematical abilities in children correlate with the ability to estimate numerosity. Does math correlate only with numerosity estimation, or also with other similar tasks? We measured discrimination thresholds of school-age (6- to 12.5-years-old) children in 3 tasks: numerosity of patterns of relatively sparse, segregatable items (24 dots); numerosity of very dense textured patterns (250 dots); and discrimination of direction of motion. Thresholds in all tasks improved with age, but at different rates, implying the action of different mechanisms: In particular, in young children, thresholds were lower for sparse than textured patterns (the opposite of adults), suggesting earlier maturation of numerosity mechanisms. Importantly, numerosity thresholds for sparse stimuli correlated strongly with math skills, even after controlling for the influence of age, gender and nonverbal IQ. However, neither motion-direction discrimination nor numerosity discrimination of texture patterns showed a significant correlation with math abilities. These results provide further evidence that numerosity and texture-density are perceived by independent neural mechanisms, which develop at different rates; and importantly, only numerosity mechanisms are related to math. As developmental dyscalculia is characterized by a profound deficit in discriminating numerosity, it is fundamental to understand the mechanism behind the discrimination.

An Orientation Dependent Size Illusion Is Underpinned by Processing in the Extrastriate Visual Area, LO1, i-Perception, 5 (7).

We use the simple, but prominent Helmholtz’s squares illusion in which a vertically striped square appears wider than a horizontally striped square of identical physical dimensions to determine whether functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) BOLD responses in V1 underpin illusions of size. We report that these simple stimuli which differ in only one parameter, orientation, to which V1 neurons are highly selective elicited activity in V1 that followed their physical, not perceived size. To further probe the role of V1 in the illusion and investigate plausible extrastriate visual areas responsible for eliciting the Helmholtz squares illusion, we performed a follow-up transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) experiment in which we compared perceptual judgments about the aspect ratio of perceptually identical Helmholtz squares when no TMS was applied against selective stimulation of V1, LO1, or LO2. In agreement with fMRI results, we report that TMS of area V1 does not compromise the strength of the illusion. Only stimulation of area LO1, and not LO2, compromised significantly the strength of the illusion, consistent with previous research that LO1 plays a role in the processing of orientation information. These results demonstrate the involvement of a specific extrastriate area in an illusory percept of size.

Different coding strategies for the perception of stable and changeable facial attributes, Sci. Rep., 6.

Perceptual systems face competing requirements: improving signal-to-noise ratios of noisy images, by integration; and maximising sensitivity to change, by differentiation. Both processes occur in human vision, under different circumstances: they have been termed priming, or serial dependencies, leading to positive sequential effects; and adaptation or habituation, which leads to negative sequential effects. We reasoned that for stable attributes, such as the identity and gender of faces, the system should integrate: while for changeable attributes like facial expression, it should also engage contrast mechanisms to maximise sensitivity to change. Subjects viewed a sequence of images varying simultaneously in gender and expression, and scored each as male or female, and happy or sad. We found strong and consistent positive serial dependencies for gender, and negative dependency for expression, showing that both processes can operate at the same time, on the same stimuli, depending on the attribute being judged. The results point to highly sophisticated mechanisms for optimizing use of past information, either by integration or differentiation, depending on the permanence of that attribute.

Effects of adaptation on numerosity decoding in the human brain, Neuroimage, (143), 364-377. 

Psychophysical studies have shown that numerosity is a sensory attribute susceptible to adaptation. Neuroimaging studies have reported that, at least for relatively low numbers, numerosity can be accurately discriminated in the intra-parietal sulcus. Here we developed a novel rapid adaptation paradigm where adapting and test stimuli are separated by pauses sufficient to dissociate their BOLD activity. We used multivariate pattern recognition to classify brain activity evoked by non-symbolic numbers over a wide range (20-80), both before and after psychophysical adaptation to the highest numerosity. Adaptation caused underestimation of all lower numerosities, and decreased slightly the average BOLD responses in V1 and IPS. Using support vector machine, we showed that the BOLD response of IPS, but not in V1, classified numerosity well, both when tested before and after adaptation. However, there was no transfer from training pre-adaptation responses to testing post-adaptation, and vice versa, indicating that adaptation changes the neuronal representation of the numerosity. Interestingly, decoding was more accurate after adaptation, and the amount of improvement correlated with the amount of perceptual underestimation of numerosity across subjects. These results suggest that numerosity adaptation acts directly on IPS, rather than indirectly via other low-level stimulus parameters analysis, and that adaptation improves the capacity to discriminate numerosity.

The role of the retino-colliculo-extrastriate pathway in visual awareness and visual field recovery. Neuropsychologia, 90, 72-79.

Patients with visual field defects resulting from post-chiasmatic lesions experience loss of visual function in up to one half of their visual field, with consequent impairments in their daily life activities. Therefore, effective strategies for compensating for the visual field loss are of great clinical relevance. After lesions to the primary visual pathway -which conveys visual information from the retina to the lateral geniculate nucleus, the optic radiations and, then, to the striate cortex-an alternative visual pathway, which projects from the superior colliculus to the extrastriate cortex, is usually spared in patients with visual field defects. In the present review, evidence for spared functioning of this alternative pathway in patients with visual field defects will be presented, both in terms of residual visual abilities, without awareness, for stimuli presented in the blind field, and the ability to integrate unseen visual signals presented in the blind field with concurrent auditory stimuli. Crucially, this review will discuss how the spared retino-colliculo-extrastriate pathway might be a useful tool for compensating for the loss of visual perception. Accordingly, evidence for the compensatory effects of systematic multisensory audio-visual stimulation in patients with visual field defects will be reviewed.

Compensatory Recovery after Multisensory Stimulation in Hemianopic Patients: Behavioral and Neurophysiological Components. Frontiers in systems neuroscience, 10, 45.

Lateralized post-chiasmatic lesions of the primary visual pathway result in loss of visual perception in the field retinotopically corresponding to the damaged cortical area. However, patients with visual field defects have shown enhanced detection and localization of multisensory audio-visual pairs presented in the blind field. This preserved multisensory integrative ability (i.e., crossmodal blindsight) seems to be subserved by the spared retino-colliculo-dorsal pathway. According to this view, audio-visual integrative mechanisms could be used to increase the functionality of the spared circuit and, as a consequence, might represent an important tool for the rehabilitation of visual field defects. The present study tested this hypothesis, investigating whether exposure to systematic multisensory audio-visual stimulation could induce long-lasting improvements in the visual performance of patients with visual field defects. A group of 10 patients with chronic visual field defects were exposed to audio-visual training for 4 h daily, over a period of 2 weeks. Behavioral, oculomotor and electroencephalography (EEG) measures were recorded during several visual tasks before and after audio-visual training. After audio-visual training, improvements in visual search abilities, visual detection, self-perceived disability in daily life activities and oculomotor parameters were found, suggesting the implementation of more effective visual exploration strategies. At the electrophysiological level, after training, patients showed a significant reduction of the P3 amplitude in response to stimuli presented in the intact field, reflecting a reduction in attentional resources allocated to the intact field, which might co-occur with a shift of spatial attention towards the blind field. More interestingly, both the behavioral improvements and the electrophysiological changes observed after training were found to be stable at a follow-up session (on average, 8 months after training), suggesting long-term effects of multisensory audio-visual training. These long-lasting effects seem to be subserved by the activation of the spared retino-colliculo-dorsal pathway, which promotes orienting responses towards the blind field, able to both compensate for the visual field loss and concurrently attenuate visual attention towards the intact field. These results add to previous findings the knowledge that audio-visual multisensory stimulation promote long-term plastic changes in hemianopics, resulting in stable and long-lasting ameliorations in behavioral and electrophysiological measures.

Audio‐visual multisensory training enhances visual processing of motion stimuli in healthy participants: an electrophysiological study. European Journal of Neuroscience, 44(10), 2748-2758.

Evidence from electrophysiological and imaging studies suggests that audio‐visual (AV) stimuli presented in spatial coincidence enhance activity in the subcortical colliculo‐dorsal extrastriate pathway. To test whether repetitive AV stimulation might specifically activate this neural circuit underlying multisensory integrative processes, electroencephalographic data were recorded before and after 2 h of AV training, during the execution of two lateralized visual tasks: a motion discrimination task, relying on activity in the colliculo‐dorsal MT pathway, and an orientation discrimination task, relying on activity in the striate and early ventral extrastriate cortices. During training, participants were asked to detect and perform a saccade towards AV stimuli that were disproportionally allocated to one hemifield (the trained hemifield). Half of the participants underwent a training in which AV stimuli were presented in spatial coincidence, while the remaining half underwent a training in which AV stimuli were presented in spatial disparity (32°). Participants who received AV training with stimuli in spatial coincidence had a post‐training enhancement of the anterior N1 component in the motion discrimination task, but only in response to stimuli presented in the trained hemifield. However, no effect was found in the orientation discrimination task. In contrast, participants who received AV training with stimuli in spatial disparity showed no effects on either task. The observed N1 enhancement might reflect enhanced discrimination for motion stimuli, probably due to increased activity in the colliculo‐dorsal MT pathway induced by multisensory training.