The representation of object viewpoint in human visual cortex

Neuroimage. 2009 Apr 1;45(2):522-36. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.11.009. Epub 2008 Nov 25.


Understanding the nature of object representations in the human brain is critical for understanding the neural basis of invariant object recognition. However, the degree to which object representations are sensitive to object viewpoint is unknown. Using fMRI we employed a parametric approach to examine the sensitivity to object view as a function of rotation (0 degrees-180 degrees ), category (animal/vehicle) and fMRI-adaptation paradigm (short or long-lagged). For both categories and fMRI-adaptation paradigms, object-selective regions recovered from adaptation when a rotated view of an object was shown after adaptation to a specific view of that object, suggesting that representations are sensitive to object rotation. However, we found evidence for differential representations across categories and ventral stream regions. Rotation cross-adaptation was larger for animals than vehicles, suggesting higher sensitivity to vehicle than animal rotation, and was largest in the left fusiform/occipito-temporal sulcus (pFUS/OTS), suggesting that this region has low sensitivity to rotation. Moreover, right pFUS/OTS and FFA responded more strongly to front than back views of animals (without adaptation) and rotation cross-adaptation depended both on the level of rotation and the adapting view. This result suggests a prevalence of neurons that prefer frontal views of animals in fusiform regions. Using a computational model of view-tuned neurons, we demonstrate that differential neural view tuning widths and relative distributions of neural-tuned populations in fMRI voxels can explain the fMRI results. Overall, our findings underscore the utility of parametric approaches for studying the neural basis of object invariance and suggest that there is no complete invariance to object view in the human ventral stream.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Young Adult