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Brain activity accompanying perception of implied motion in abstract paintings

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image of Spatial Vision
For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

Early 20th century artists including Duchamp and Balla tried to portray moving objects on a static canvas by superimposing objects in successive portrayals of an action. We investigated whether implied motion in those paintings is associated with activation of motion-sensitive area MT+. In Experiment 1, we found that observers rated these kinds of paintings higher in portraying motion than they did other abstract paintings in which motion is not intended. We also found that observers who had previously experienced abstract paintings with implied motion tended to give higher motion ratings to that class of paintings. In Experiment 2, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activity of observers while viewing abstract paintings receiving the highest and the lowest motion rating scores in Experiment 1. We found MT+, but not primary visual cortex (V1), showed greater BOLD responses to abstract paintings with implied motion than to abstract paintings with little motion impression, but only in observers with prior experience viewing those kinds of paintings. These results imply that the neural machinery ordinarily engaged during perception of real visual motion is activated when people view paintings explicitly designed to convey a sense of visual motion. Experience, however, is necessary to achieve this sense of motion.

Affiliations: 1: Vanderbilt Vision Research Center, Center for Integrative & Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, 111 21st Ave. S, Nashville, Tennessee, 37203, USA; Brain Korea 21, Department of Psychology, Yousei University, Sinchon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-749, Korea (ROK); 2: Vanderbilt Vision Research Center, Center for Integrative & Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, 111 21st Ave. S, Nashville, Tennessee, 37203, USA

10.1163/156856807782758395
/content/journals/10.1163/156856807782758395
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/content/journals/10.1163/156856807782758395
2007-11-01
2016-12-08

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