The ventral visual pathway: an expanded neural framework for the processing of object quality

Trends Cogn Sci. 2013 Jan;17(1):26-49. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2012.10.011. Epub 2012 Dec 19.


Since the original characterization of the ventral visual pathway, our knowledge of its neuroanatomy, functional properties, and extrinsic targets has grown considerably. Here we synthesize this recent evidence and propose that the ventral pathway is best understood as a recurrent occipitotemporal network containing neural representations of object quality both utilized and constrained by at least six distinct cortical and subcortical systems. Each system serves its own specialized behavioral, cognitive, or affective function, collectively providing the raison d'être for the ventral visual pathway. This expanded framework contrasts with the depiction of the ventral visual pathway as a largely serial staged hierarchy culminating in singular object representations and more parsimoniously incorporates attentional, contextual, and feedback effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Occipital Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Occipital Lobe / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*