Blocking Top-down awareness of Kanizsa Figures: An ERP Investigation into Bottom-up Processing of Illusory Contours
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Neural models of the processing of illusory contour (ICs) diverge from one another in terms of their emphasis on bottom-up versus top-down constituents. The current study uses a dichoptic fusion paradigm to block top-down awareness of ICs in order to examine possible bottom-up effects. Group results indicate that the N170 ERP component is particularly sensitive to ICs at central occipital sites when top-down awareness of the stimulus is permitted. Furthermore, single-subject statistics reveal that the IC N170 ERP effect is highly variable across individuals in terms of timing and topographical spread. The results suggest that the ubiquitous N170 effect to ICs found in the literature depends, at least in part, on participants’ awareness of the stimulus. Therefore a strong bottom-up model of IC processing at the time of the N170 is unlikely.