Invariant visual object recognition and shape processing in rats

Behav Brain Res. 2015 May 15:285:10-33. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2014.12.053. Epub 2015 Jan 2.


Invariant visual object recognition is the ability to recognize visual objects despite the vastly different images that each object can project onto the retina during natural vision, depending on its position and size within the visual field, its orientation relative to the viewer, etc. Achieving invariant recognition represents such a formidable computational challenge that is often assumed to be a unique hallmark of primate vision. Historically, this has limited the invasive investigation of its neuronal underpinnings to monkey studies, in spite of the narrow range of experimental approaches that these animal models allow. Meanwhile, rodents have been largely neglected as models of object vision, because of the widespread belief that they are incapable of advanced visual processing. However, the powerful array of experimental tools that have been developed to dissect neuronal circuits in rodents has made these species very attractive to vision scientists too, promoting a new tide of studies that have started to systematically explore visual functions in rats and mice. Rats, in particular, have been the subjects of several behavioral studies, aimed at assessing how advanced object recognition and shape processing is in this species. Here, I review these recent investigations, as well as earlier studies of rat pattern vision, to provide an historical overview and a critical summary of the status of the knowledge about rat object vision. The picture emerging from this survey is very encouraging with regard to the possibility of using rats as complementary models to monkeys in the study of higher-level vision.

Keywords: Invariant recognition; Pattern vision; Rat; Rodent; Shape processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual* / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Rats / physiology
  • Rats / psychology*
  • Recognition, Psychology* / physiology