Multivariate Patterns in the Human Object-Processing Pathway Reveal a Shift from Retinotopic to Shape Curvature Representations in Lateral Occipital Areas, LO-1 and LO-2

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Representations in early visual areas are organized on the basis of retinotopy, but this organizational principle appears to lose prominence in the extrastriate cortex. Nevertheless, an extrastriate region, such as the shape-selective lateral occipital cortex (LO), must still base its activation on the responses from earlier retinotopic visual areas, implying that a transition from retinotopic to “functional” organizations should exist. We hypothesized that such a transition may lie in LO-1 or LO-2, two visual areas lying between retinotopically defined V3d and functionally defined LO. Using a rapid event-related fMRI paradigm, we measured neural similarity in 12 human participants between pairs of stimuli differing along dimensions of shape exemplar and shape complexity within both retinotopically and functionally defined visual areas. These neural similarity measures were then compared with low-level and more abstract (curvature-based) measures of stimulus similarity. We found that low-level, but not abstract, stimulus measures predicted V1–V3 responses, whereas the converse was true for LO, a double dissociation. Critically, abstract stimulus measures were most predictive of responses within LO-2, akin to LO, whereas both low-level and abstract measures were predictive for responses within LO-1, perhaps indicating a transitional point between those two organizational principles. Similar transitions to abstract representations were not observed in the more ventral stream passing through V4 and VO-1/2. The transition we observed in LO-1 and LO-2 demonstrates that a more “abstracted” representation, typically considered the preserve of “category-selective” extrastriate cortex, can nevertheless emerge in retinotopic regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5763-5774
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neuroscience
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016, Vernon et al.


  • Extrastriate
  • Lateral occipital
  • Object selective
  • Representational similarity analysis
  • Shape
  • V1

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