Successful recognition of partially occluded objects is presumed to involve dynamic interactions between brain areas responsible for vision and cognition, but neurophysiological evidence for the involvement of feedback signals is lacking. Here, we demonstrate that neurons in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) of monkeys performing a shape discrimination task respond more strongly to occluded than unoccluded stimuli. In contrast, neurons in visual area V4 respond more strongly to unoccluded stimuli. Analyses of V4 response dynamics reveal that many neurons exhibit two transient response peaks, the second of which emerges after vlPFC response onset and displays stronger selectivity for occluded shapes. We replicate these findings using a model of V4/vlPFC interactions in which occlusion-sensitive vlPFC neurons feed back to shape-selective V4 neurons, thereby enhancing V4 responses and selectivity to occluded shapes. These results reveal how signals from frontal and visual cortex could interact to facilitate object recognition under occlusion.
Keywords: feedback signals; neurophysiology; neuroscience; object representation and recognition; partial occlusion; prefrontal cortex; rhesus macaque; visual area V4.