Fast Recurrent Processing via Ventrolateral Prefrontal Cortex Is Needed by the Primate Ventral Stream for Robust Core Visual Object Recognition

Neuron. 2021 Jan 6;109(1):164-176.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.09.035. Epub 2020 Oct 19.


Distributed neural population spiking patterns in macaque inferior temporal (IT) cortex that support core object recognition require additional time to develop for specific, "late-solved" images. This suggests the necessity of recurrent processing in these computations. Which brain circuits are responsible for computing and transmitting these putative recurrent signals to IT? To test whether the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) is a critical recurrent node in this system, here, we pharmacologically inactivated parts of vlPFC and simultaneously measured IT activity while monkeys performed object discrimination tasks. vlPFC inactivation deteriorated the quality of late-phase (>150 ms from image onset) IT population code and produced commensurate behavioral deficits for late-solved images. Finally, silencing vlPFC caused the monkeys' IT activity and behavior to become more like those produced by feedforward-only ventral stream models. Together with prior work, these results implicate fast recurrent processing through vlPFC as critical to producing behaviorally sufficient object representations in IT.

Keywords: core object recognition; deep neural networks; inferior temporal cortex; muscimol; population codes; ventrolateral PFC.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology