A comparison of masking by visual and transcranial magnetic stimulation: implications for the study of conscious and unconscious visual processing

Consciousness and Cognition 13 (4):829-843 (2004)
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Visual stimuli as well as transcranial magnetic stimulation can be used: to suppress the visibility of a target and to recover the visibility of a target that has been suppressed by another mask. Both types of stimulation thus provide useful methods for studying the microgenesis of object perception. We first review evidence of similarities between the processes by which a TMS mask and a visual mask can either suppress the visibility of targets or recover such suppressed visibility. However, we then also point out a significant difference that has important implications for the study of the time course of unconscious and conscious visual information processing and for theoretical accounts of the processes involved. We present evidence and arguments showing: that visual masking techniques, by revealing more detailed aspects of target masking and target recovery, support a theoretical approach to visual masking and visual perception that must take into account activities in two separate neural channels or processing streams and, as a corollary, that at the current stage of methodological sophistication visual masks, by acting in more highly specifiable ways on these pathways, provide information about the microgenesis of form perception not available with TMS masks



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