The emergence of tuning to global shape properties of radial frequency patterns in the ventral visual pathway

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Radial frequency patterns - created by sinusoidal modulations of a circle's radius - are processed globally when radial frequency is low. These closed shapes therefore offer a useful way to interrogate the human visual system for global processing of curvature. Radial frequency patterns elicit greater responses than those to radial gratings in V4 and more anterior face selective regions of the ventral visual pathway. This is largely consistent with work on non-human primates showing curvature processing emerges in V4, but is evident also higher up the ventral visual stream. Rather than contrasting radial frequency patterns with other stimuli, we presented them at varied frequencies in a regimen that allowed tunings to radial frequency to be derived from 8 human participants (3 female). We found tuning to low radial frequency in lateral occipital areas and to some extent in V4. In a control experiment we added a high frequency ripple to the stimuli disrupting the local contour. Low frequency tuning to these stimuli remained in the ventral visual stream underscoring its role in global processing of shape curvature. We then used representational similarity analysis to show that in lateral occipital areas the neural representation was related to stimulus similarity, when it was computed with a model that captured how stimuli are perceived. We show therefore that global processing of shape curvature emerges in the ventral visual stream as early as V4, but is found more strongly in lateral occipital regions, which exhibit responses and representations that relate well to perception. Significance StatementWe show tuning to low radial frequencies, known to engage global shape processing mechanisms, was localised to lateral occipital regions. When low level stimulus properties were accounted for such tuning emerged in V4 and LO2 in addition to the object selective region LO. We also documented representations of global shape properties in lateral occipital regions and these representations were predicted well by a proxy of the perceptual difference between the stimuli.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberJN-RM-2237-22
JournalThe Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 19 Jun 2023

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