Human visual cortex contains three scene-selective regions in the lateral, medial and ventral cortex, termed the occipital place area (OPA), medial place area (MPA) and parahippocampal place area (PPA). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), all three regions respond more strongly when viewing visual scenes compared with isolated objects or faces. To determine how these regions are functionally and causally connected, we applied transcranial magnetic stimulation to OPA and measured fMRI responses before and after stimulation, using a theta-burst paradigm (TBS). To test for stimulus category-selectivity, we presented a range of visual categories (scenes, buildings, objects, faces). To test for specificity of any effects to TBS of OPA we employed two control conditions: a Sham condition, with no TBS stimulation, and an active TBS-control with TBS to a proximal face-selective cortical region (occipital face area, or OFA). We predicted that TBS to OPA (but not OFA) would lead to decreased responses to scenes and buildings (but not other categories) in other scene-selective cortical regions, namely MPA and PPA. Across both ROI and whole-volume analyses, we observed decreased responses to scenes in PPA as a result of TBS. However, these effects were neither category specific, with decreased responses to all stimulus categories, nor limited to scene-selective regions, with decreases also observed in face-selective fusiform face area (FFA). Furthermore, similar effects were observed with TBS to OFA, thus effects were not specific to the stimulation site in the lateral occipital cortex. Collectively these results demonstrate a causal, but non-specific, relationship between lateral occipital and ventral temporal cortex. Furthermore, our findings highlight the importance of active control conditions in TMS experiments to accurately assess functional and causal connectivity between specific brain regions.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience