Contour, color and shape analysis beyond the striate cortex

Vision Res. 1985;25(3):441-52. doi: 10.1016/0042-6989(85)90069-0.


The corticocortical pathway from striate cortex into the temporal lobe plays a crucial role in the visual recognition of objects. Anatomical studies indicate that this pathway is mainly organized as a serial hierarchy of multiple visual areas, including V1, V2, V3, V4, and inferior temporal cortex (IT). As expected from the anatomy, we have found that neurons in V4 and IT, like those in V1 and V2, are sensitive to many kinds of information relevant to object recognition. In the spatial domain, many V4 cells exhibit length, width, orientation, direction of motion and spatial frequency selectivity. In the spectral domain, many V4 cells are also tuned to wavelength. Thus, V4 is not specialized to analyze one particular attribute of a visual stimulus; rather, V4 appears to process both spatial and spectral information in parallel. A special contribution of V4 neurons to visual processing may lie in specific spatial and spectral interactions between their small excitatory receptive fields and large silent suppressive surrounds. Thus, although the excitatory receptive fields of V4 neurons are small, the responses of V4 neurons are influenced by stimuli throughout a much larger portion of the visual field. In IT, neurons also appear to process both spatial and spectral information throughout a large portion of the visual field. However, unlike V4 neurons, the excitatory receptive fields of IT neurons are very large. Many IT neurons, for example, are selective for the overall shape, color, or texture of a stimulus, anywhere within the central visual field. Together, these results suggest that within the areas of the occipito-temporal pathway, many different stimulus qualities are processed in parallel, but the type of analysis may become more global at each stage of processing.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Macaca
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology