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Human primary visual cortex (V1) has long been associated with learning simple low-level visual discriminations [1] and is classically considered outside of neural systems that support high-level cognitive behavior in contexts that differ from the original conditions of learning, such as recognition memory [2, 3]. Here, we used a novel fMRI-based dichoptic masking protocol-designed to induce activity in V1, without modulation from visual awareness-to test whether human V1 is implicated in human observers rapidly learning and then later (15-20 min) recognizing a non-conscious and complex (second-order) visuospatial sequence. Learning was associated with a change in V1 activity, as part of a temporo-occipital and basal ganglia network, which is at variance with the cortico-cerebellar network identified in prior studies of "implicit" sequence learning that involved motor responses and visible stimuli (e.g., [4]). Recognition memory was associated with V1 activity, as part of a temporo-occipital network involving the hippocampus, under conditions that were not imputable to mechanisms associated with conscious retrieval. Notably, the V1 responses during learning and recognition separately predicted non-conscious recognition memory, and functional coupling between V1 and the hippocampus was enhanced for old retrieval cues. The results provide a basis for novel hypotheses about the signals that can drive recognition memory, because these data (1) identify human V1 with a memory network that can code complex associative serial visuospatial information and support later non-conscious recognition memory-guided behavior (cf. [5]) and (2) align with mouse models of experience-dependent V1 plasticity in learning and memory [6].

Original publication




Journal article


Curr Biol

Publication Date





834 - 841


hippocampus, implicit, non-conscious memory, primary visual cortex, recognition memory, relational, sequence learning, Hippocampus, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Memory, Nontherapeutic Human Experimentation, Photic Stimulation, Visual Cortex, Visual Perception