Both spatial and temporal context play an important role in visual perception and behavior. Humans can extract statistical regularities from both forms of context to help processing the present and to construct expectations about the future. Numerous studies have found reduced neural responses to expected stimuli compared to unexpected stimuli, for both spatial and temporal regularities. However, it is largely unclear whether and how these forms of context interact. In the current fMRI study, thirty-three human volunteers were exposed to object stimuli that could be expected or surprising in terms of their spatial and temporal context. We found a reliable independent contribution of both spatial and temporal context in modulating the neural response. Specifically, neural responses to stimuli in expected compared to unexpected contexts were suppressed throughout the ventral visual stream. Interestingly, the modulation by spatial context was stronger in magnitude and more reliable than modulations by temporal context. These results suggest that while both spatial and temporal context serve as a prior that can modulate sensory processing in a similar fashion, predictions of spatial context may be a more powerful modulator in the visual system.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience