To better understand how object recognition can be triggered independently of the sensory channel through which information is acquired, we devised a task in which rats judged the orientation of a raised, black and white grating. They learned to recognize two categories of orientation: 0° ± 45° ("horizontal") and 90° ± 45° ("vertical"). Each trial required a visual (V), a tactile (T), or a visual-tactile (VT) discrimination; VT performance was better than that predicted by optimal linear combination of V and T signals, indicating synergy between sensory channels. We examined posterior parietal cortex (PPC) and uncovered key neuronal correlates of the behavioral findings: PPC carried both graded information about object orientation and categorical information about the rat's upcoming choice; single neurons exhibited identical responses under the three modality conditions. Finally, a linear classifier of neuronal population firing replicated the behavioral findings. Taken together, these findings suggest that PPC is involved in the supramodal processing of shape.
Keywords: Bayesian; linearity; multimodal integration; mutual information; neuronal coding; posterior parietal cortex; psychophysics; rat; touch; vision.
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