Functional neuroimaging and behavioural studies on global form processing in the human visual system

  • Jennifer B. Swettenham

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Magnetoencephalography (MEG), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and behavioural experiments were used to investigate the neural processes underlying global form perception in human vision.
Behavioural studies using Glass patterns examined sensitivity for detecting radial, rotational and horizontal structure. Neuroimaging experiments using either Glass patterns or arrays of Gabor patches determined the spatio-temporal neural responseto global form. MEG data were analysed using synthetic aperture magnetometry (SAM) to spatially map event-related cortical oscillatory power changes: the temporal sequencing of activity within a discrete cortical area was determined using a Morlet wavelet transform. A case study was conducted to determine the effects of strbismic amblyopia on global form processing: all other observers were normally-sighted.
The main findings from normally-sighted observers were: 1) sensitivity to horizontal structure was less than for radial or rotational structure; 2) the neural response to global structure was a reduction in cortical oscillatory power (10-30 Hz) within a network of extrastriate areas, including V4 and V3a; 3) the extend of reduced cortical power was least for horizontal patters; 4) V1 was not identified as a region of peak activity with either MEG or fMRI. The main findings with the strabismic amblyope were: 1) sensitivity for detection of radial, rotational, and horizontal structure was reduced when viewed with the amblyopic- relative to the fellow- eye; 2) cortical power changes within V4 to the presentation of rotational Glass patterns were less when viewed with the amblyopic- compared with the fellow- eye.
The main conclusions are: 1) a network of extrastriate cortical areas are involved in the analysis of global form, with the most prominent change in neural activity being a reduction in oscillatory power within the 10-30 Hz band; 2) in strabismic amblyopia, the neuronal assembly associated with form perception in extrastriate cortex may be dysfunctional, the nature of this dysfunction may be a change in the normal temporal pattern of neuronal discharges; 3) MEG, fMRI and behavioural measures support the notion that different neural processes underlie the perception of horizontal as opposed to radial or rotational structure.
Date of AwardDec 2005
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorStephen Anderson (Supervisor)


  • Magnetoencephalography
  • synthetic aperture magnetometry
  • functional magnetic resonance inaging
  • glass patterns
  • amblyopia

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