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How Do We Prioritize What We See?

New Research Uncovers the Causal Role of the Occipital Cortex
August 13, 2020

It is known that different regions of the brain help us prioritize information so we can efficiently process visual scenes. A new study by a team of neuroscientists at New York University has discovered that one specific region, the occipital cortex, plays a causal role in piloting our attention to manage the intake of images.

The work, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology, relies on a method, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which helps illuminate this dynamic. 

“By briefly disrupting cortical excitability of the occipital cortex with TMS we could extinguish the known effects of involuntary, or exogenous, covert spatial attention, and thus reveal a causal link between the occipital cortex and the effect of covert attention on vision,” explains Marisa Carrasco, a professor of psychology and neural science at New York University and the senior author of the paper.