Impact of learning on representation of parts and wholes in monkey inferotemporal cortex

Nat Neurosci. 2002 Nov;5(11):1210-6. doi: 10.1038/nn960.


Here we investigated the impact of visual discrimination training on neuronal responses to parts of images and to whole images in inferotemporal (IT) cortex. Monkeys were trained to discriminate among 'baton' stimuli consisting of discrete top and bottom parts joined by a vertical stem. With separate features at each end, we were able to manipulate the two parts of each baton independently. After training the monkeys, we used single-cell recording to compare neuronal responses to learned and unlearned batons. Responses to learned batons, though not enhanced in strength, were enhanced in selectivity for both individual parts and for whole batons. Whole-baton selectivity arose from a form of conjunctive encoding whereby two parts together exerted a greater influence on neuronal activity than predicted by the additive influence of each part considered individually. These results indicate a possible neural mechanism for holistic or configural effects in expert versus novice observers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Haplorhini
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Temporal Lobe / cytology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology