The Lateral Occipital Complex shows no net response to object familiarity

J Vis. 2016 Sep 1;16(11):3. doi: 10.1167/16.11.3.


In 1995, Malach et al. discovered an area whose fMRI BOLD response was greater when viewing intact, familiar objects than when viewing their scrambled versions (resembling texture). Since then hundreds of studies have explored this late visual region termed the Lateral Occipital Complex (LOC), which is now known to be critical for shape perception (James, Culham, Humphrey, Milner, & Goodale, 2003). Malach et al. (1995) discounted a role of familiarity by showing that "abstract" Henry Moore sculptures, unfamiliar to the subjects, also activated this region. This characterization of LOC as a region that responds to shape independently of familiarity has been accepted but never tested with control of the same low-level features. We assessed LOC's response to objects that had identical parts in two different arrangements, one familiar and the other novel. Malach was correct: There is no net effect of familiarity in LOC. However, a multivoxel correlation analysis showed that LOC does distinguish familiar from novel objects.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Occipital Lobe / physiology*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Young Adult