A sequence of object-processing stages revealed by fMRI in the human occipital lobe

Hum Brain Mapp. 1998;6(4):316-28. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0193(1998)6:4<316::AID-HBM9>3.0.CO;2-6.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used in combined functional selectivity and retinotopic mapping tests to reveal object-related visual areas in the human occipital lobe. Subjects were tested with right, left, up, or down hemivisual field stimuli which were composed of images of natural objects (faces, animals, man-made objects) or highly scrambled (1,024 elements) versions of the same images. In a similar fashion, the horizontal and vertical meridians were mapped to define the borders of these areas. Concurrently, the same cortical sites were tested for their sensitivity to image-scrambling by varying the number of scrambled picture fragments (from 16-1,024) while controlling for the Fourier power spectrum of the pictures and their order of presentation. Our results reveal a stagewise decrease in retinotopy and an increase in sensitivity to image-scrambling. Three main distinct foci were found in the human visual object recognition pathway (Ungerleider and Haxby [1994]: Curr Opin Neurobiol 4:157-165): 1) Retinotopic primary areas V1-3 did not exhibit significant reduction in activation to scrambled images. 2) Areas V4v (Sereno et al., [1995]: Science 268:889-893) and V3A (De Yoe et al., [1996]: Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 93:2382-2386; Tootell et al., [1997]: J Neurosci 71:7060-7078) manifested both retinotopy and decreased activation to highly scrambled images. 3) The essentially nonretinotopic lateral occipital complex (LO) (Malach et al., [1995]: Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 92:8135-8139; Tootell et al., [1996]: Trends Neurosci 19:481-489) exhibited the highest sensitivity to image scrambling, and appears to be homologous to macaque the infero-temporal (IT) cortex (Tanaka [1996]: Curr Opin Neurobiol 523-529). Breaking the images into 64, 256, or 1,024 randomly scrambled blocks reduced activation in LO voxels. However, many LO voxels remained significantly activated by mildly scrambled images (16 blocks). These results suggest the existence of object-fragment representation in LO.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Female
  • Form Perception
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occipital Lobe / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Visual Fields / physiology*