Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
In the complete absence of small transients in visual inputs (e.g., by experimentally stabilizing an image on the retina or in everyday life during intent staring), information perceived by the eyes will fade from the perceptual experience. Although the mechanisms of visual fading remain poorly understood, one possibility is that higher level brain regions actively suppress the stable visual signals via targeted feedback onto early visual cortex (EVC). Here, we used positive afterimages and multisensory conflict to induce gestalt-like fading of participants' own hands. In two separate experiments, participants rated the perceived quality of their hands both before and after transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was applied over EVC. In a first experiment, triple-pulse TMS was able to make a faded hand appear less faded after the pulses were applied, compared with placebo pulses. A second experiment demonstrated that this was because triple-pulse TMS slowed down fading of the removed hand that otherwise occurs naturally over time. Interestingly, TMS similarly affected the left and right hands, despite being applied only over the right EVC. Together, our results suggest that TMS over EVC attenuates the effects of visual fading in positive afterimages, and it might do so by crossing transcollosal connections or via multimodal integration sites in which both hands are represented.