The neural basis of the Enigma illusion: A transcranial magnetic stimulation study

Manuela Ruzzoli, Simone Gori, Andrea Pavan, Cornelia Pirulli, Carlo A. Marzi, Carlo Miniussi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study was to test the role of the visual primary (V1) and the middle temporal area (V5/MT) in the illusory motion perception evoked by the Enigma figure. The Enigma figure induces a visual illusion that is characterized by apparent rotatory motion in the presence of a static figure. By means of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) we show that V5/MT is causally linked to the illusory perception of motion. When rTMS was applied bilaterally over V5/MT just prior to presentation of the Enigma figure, the perception of illusory motion was disrupted for approximately 400. ms resulting in a delayed illusion onset. In contrast, rTMS applied over V1 did not have any effect on the illusory perception of motion. These results show that V5/MT, a visual cortical area associated with real motion perception, is also important for the perception of illusory motion, while V1 appears not to be functionally involved in illusory motion perception.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3648-3655
Number of pages8
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


  • Enigma figure
  • Motion illusion
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)
  • V1
  • V5/MT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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