Noradrenaline Modulates Visual Perceptionand Late Visually Evoked Activity

Hagar Efrat NE

An identical sensory stimulus may or may not be incorporated into perceptual experience, depending on the behavioral and cognitive state of the organism. What determines whether a sensory stimulus will be perceived? Here we tested whether noradrenaline signaling may play a key role. We pharmacologically down- and upregulated noradrenaline signaling in healthy volunteers using clonidine and reboxetine in double-blind placebo-controlled experiments, testing the effects on perceptual abilities and visually evoked electroencephalography (EEG) and fMRI responses. We found that detection sensitivity, discrimination accuracy, and subjective visibility change in accordance with noradrenaline (NE) levels, whereas decision bias (criterion) is not affected. Similarly, noradrenaline increases the consistency of EEG visually evoked potentials, while lower noradrenaline levels delay response components around 200ms. Furthermore, BOLD fMRI activations in high-order visual cortex selectively vary along with noradrenaline signaling. The results point to noradrenaline as a key factor causally linking visual awareness to external world events.