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Beyond sensory images: Object-based representation in the human ventral pathway

National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date
  • Biological Sciences


We investigated whether the topographically organized, category-related patterns of neural response in the ventral visual pathway are a representation of sensory images or a more abstract representation of object form that is not dependent on sensory modality. We used functional MRI to measure patterns of response evoked during visual and tactile recognition of faces and manmade objects in sighted subjects and during tactile recognition in blind subjects. Results showed that visual and tactile recognition evoked category-related patterns of response in a ventral extrastriate visual area in the inferior temporal gyrus that were correlated across modality for manmade objects. Blind subjects also demonstrated category-related patterns of response in this “visual” area, and in more ventral cortical regions in the fusiform gyrus, indicating that these patterns are not due to visual imagery and, furthermore, that visual experience is not necessary for category-related representations to develop in these cortices. These results demonstrate that the representation of objects in the ventral visual pathway is not simply a representation of visual images but, rather, is a representation of more abstract features of object form.

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