Full scenes produce more activation than close-up scenes and scene-diagnostic objects in parahippocampal and retrosplenial cortex: an fMRI study

Brain Cogn. 2008 Feb;66(1):40-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2007.05.001. Epub 2007 Jul 2.


We used fMRI to directly compare activation in two cortical regions previously identified as relevant to real-world scene processing: retrosplenial cortex and a region of posterior parahippocampal cortex functionally defined as the parahippocampal place area (PPA). We compared activation in these regions to full views of scenes from a global perspective, close-up views of sub-regions from the same scene category, and single objects highly diagnostic of that scene category. Faces were included as a control condition. Activation in parahippocampal place area was greatest for full scene views that explicitly included the 3D spatial structure of the environment, with progressively less activation for close-up views of local scene regions containing diagnostic objects but less explicitly depicting 3D scene geometry, followed by single scene-diagnostic objects. Faces did not activate parahippocampal place area. In contrast, activation in retrosplenial cortex was greatest for full scene views, and did not differ among close-up views, diagnostic objects, and faces. The results showed that parahippocampal place area responds in a graded fashion as images become more completely scene-like and include more explicit 3D structure, whereas retrosplenial cortex responds in a step-wise manner to the presence of a complete scene. These results suggest scene processing areas are particularly sensitive to the 3D geometric structure that distinguishes scenes from other types of complex and meaningful visual stimuli.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Depth Perception / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reference Values
  • Space Perception / physiology*