Mental imagery is thought to play a key role in certain aspects of visual perception and to depend on neural activity in visual cortex. We asked whether tactile discrimination of grating orientation, which appears to involve visual mental imagery, recruits visual cortical areas. H215O positron emission tomography was performed in humans during presentation of gratings to the right index fingerpad. Selective attention to grating orientation significantly increased regional cerebral blood flow, relative to a control task involving selective attention to grating dimensions, in a region located in left parieto-occipital cortex. We propose that this activation reflects the use of imagery-related visuo-spatial processes to enable the tactile discrimination of orientation.
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