fMRI repetition suppression: neuronal adaptation or stimulus expectation?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Measurements of repetition suppression with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI adaptation) have been used widely to probe neuronal population response properties in human cerebral cortex. fMRI adaptation techniques assume that fMRI repetition suppression reflects neuronal adaptation, an assumption that has been challenged on the basis of evidence that repetition-related response changes may reflect unrelated factors, such as attention and stimulus expectation. Specifically, Summerfield et al. (2008) reported that the relative frequency of stimulus repetitions and non-repetitions influenced the magnitude of repetition suppression in the fusiform face area (FFA), suggesting that stimulus expectation accounted for most of the effect of repetition. We confirm that stimulus expectation can significantly influence fMRI repetition suppression throughout visual cortex, and show that it occurs with long as well as short adaptation durations. However, the effect was attention-dependent: when attention was diverted away from the stimuli, the effects of stimulus expectation completely disappeared. Nonetheless, robust and significant repetition suppression was still evident. These results suggest that fMRI repetition suppression reflects a combination of neuronal adaptation and attention-dependent expectation effects which can be experimentally dissociated. This implies that with an appropriate experimental design, fMRI adaptation can provide valid measures of neuronal adaptation and hence response specificity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-576
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number3
Early online date20 Jun 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Cite this