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While it is well known that vision guides movement, less appreciated is that the motor cortex also provides input to the visual system. Here, we asked whether neural processing of visual stimuli is acutely modulated during motor activity, hypothesizing that visual evoked responses are enhanced when engaged in a motor task that depends on the visual stimulus. To test this, we told participants that their brain activity was controlling a video game that was in fact the playback of a prerecorded game. The deception, which was effective in half of participants, aimed to engage the motor system while avoiding evoked responses related to actual movement or somatosensation. In other trials, subjects actively played the game with keyboard control or passively watched a playback. The strength of visually evoked responses was measured as the temporal correlation between the continuous stimulus and the evoked potentials on the scalp. We found reduced correlation during passive viewing, but no difference between active and sham play. Alpha-band (8–12 Hz) activity was reduced over central electrodes during sham play, indicating recruitment of motor cortex despite the absence of overt movement. To account for the potential increase of attention during gameplay, we conducted a second study with subjects counting screen items during viewing. We again found increased correlation during sham play, but no difference between counting and passive viewing. While we cannot fully rule out the involvement of attention, our findings do demonstrate an enhancement of visual evoked responses during active vision.
This work was originally published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, available at https://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.14924.
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