Neuroimaging studies have revealed distinct patterns of response to different object categories in the ventral visual pathway. These findings imply that object category is an important organizing principle in this region of visual cortex. However, object categories also differ systematically in their image properties. So, it is possible that these patterns of neural response could reflect differences in image properties rather than object category. To differentiate between these alternative explanations, we used images of objects that had been phase-scrambled at a local or global level. Both scrambling processes preserved many of the lower-level image properties, but rendered the images unrecognizable. We then measured the effect of image scrambling on the patterns of neural response within the ventral pathway. We found that intact and scrambled images evoked distinct category-selective patterns of activity in the ventral stream. Moreover, intact and scrambled images of the same object category produced highly similar patterns of response. These results suggest that the neural representation in the ventral visual pathway is tightly linked to the statistical properties of the image.
Keywords: Face; MVPA; Object recognition; Ventral stream; fMRI.
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