Temporal dynamics of visual imagery and perception

Dijkstra, N.
Pim Mostert
Sander Bosch
Lange, F.P. de
Gerven, M.A.J. van


Visual perception and imagery rely on similar representations in the visual cortex. During perception, visual activity is characterized by distinct processing stages, but the temporal dynamics underlying imagery remain unclear. Here, we investigated the dynamics of visual imagery in human participants using magnetoencephalography. Firstly, we show that, compared to perception, imagery decoding becomes significant later and representations at the start of imagery already overlap with later time points. This suggests that during imagery, the entire visual representation is activated at once or that there are large differences in the timing of imagery between trials. Secondly, we found consistent overlap between imagery and perceptual processing around 160 ms and from 300 ms after stimulus onset. This indicates that the N170 gets reactivated during imagery and that imagery does not rely on early perceptual representations. Together, these results provide important insights for our understanding of the neural mechanisms of visual imagery.