Configural specificity of the lateral occipital cortex

Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.
Neuropsychologia (Impact Factor: 3.3). 09/2010; 48(11):3323-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.07.016
Source: PubMed


While regions of the lateral occipital cortex (LOC) are known to be selective for objects relative to feature-matched controls, it is not known what set of cues or configurations are used to promote this selectivity. Many theories of perceptual organization have emphasized the figure-ground relationship as being especially important in object-level processing. In the present work we studied the role of perceptual organization in eliciting visual evoked potentials from the object selective LOC. To do this, we used two-region stimuli in which the regions were modulated at different temporal frequencies and were comprised of either symmetric or asymmetric arrangements. The asymmetric arrangement produced an unambiguous figure-ground relationship consistent with a smaller figure region surrounded by a larger background, while four different symmetric arrangements resulted in ambiguous figure-ground relationships but still possessed strong kinetic boundaries between the regions. The surrounded figure-ground arrangement evoked greater activity in the LOC relative to first-tier visual areas (V1-V3). Response selectivity in the LOC, however, was not present for the four different types of symmetric stimuli. These results suggest that kinetic texture boundaries alone are not sufficient to trigger selective processing in the LOC, but that the spatial configuration of a figure that is surrounded by a larger background is both necessary and sufficient to selectively activate the LOC.

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Available from: Benoit R Cottereau, Mar 12, 2014
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    • "The shape representation in the LOC is also tuned for small shape changes in the outline of objects (Gillebert et al., 2009; Panis et al., 2008). Our previous source-imaging studies using frequency tagging have suggested that the LOC is tuned for the configuration of a small figure on a larger background (Appelbaum et al., 2010) and that LOC responses to figures are largely cue-invariant (Appelbaum et al., 2006, 2012). Cue-invariance in LOC has also been found with fMRI (Grill-Spector et al., 1998). "
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    ABSTRACT: The lateral occipital cortex (LOC) activates selectively to images of intact objects versus scrambled controls, is selective for the figure-ground relationship of a scene, and exhibits at least some degree of invariance for size and position. Because of these attributes, it is considered to be a crucial part of the object recognition pathway. Here we show that human LOC is critically involved in perceptual decisions about object shape. High-density EEG was recorded while subjects performed a threshold-level shape discrimination task on texture-defined figures segmented by either phase or orientation cues. The appearance or disappearance of a figure region from a uniform background generated robust visual evoked potentials throughout retinotopic cortex as determined by inverse modeling of the scalp voltage distribution. Contrasting responses from trials containing shape changes that were correctly detected (hits) with trials in which no change occurred (correct rejects) revealed stimulus-locked, target-selective activity in the occipital visual areas LOC and V4 preceding the subject's response. Activity that was locked to the subjects' reaction time was present in the LOC. Response-locked activity in the LOC was determined to be related to shape discrimination for several reasons: shape-selective responses were silenced when subjects viewed identical stimuli but their attention was directed away from the shapes to a demanding letter discrimination task; shape-selectivity was present across four different stimulus configurations used to define the figure; LOC responses correlated with participants' reaction times. These results indicate that decision-related activity is present in the LOC when subjects are engaged in threshold-level shape discriminations.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2012 · NeuroImage
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    • "Previous studies from our laboratory have used a frequency tagging technique and ROI-based EEG source-imaging approach to study texture segmentation [27]–[29]. In these studies a large background texture was modulated at 3.6 Hz and a smaller “figure” region was modulated at 3.0 Hz. "
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    ABSTRACT: Texture discontinuities are a fundamental cue by which the visual system segments objects from their background. The neural mechanisms supporting texture-based segmentation are therefore critical to visual perception and cognition. In the present experiment we employ an EEG source-imaging approach in order to study the time course of texture-based segmentation in the human brain. Visual Evoked Potentials were recorded to four types of stimuli in which periodic temporal modulation of a central 3° figure region could either support figure-ground segmentation, or have identical local texture modulations but not produce changes in global image segmentation. The image discontinuities were defined either by orientation or phase differences across image regions. Evoked responses to these four stimuli were analyzed both at the scalp and on the cortical surface in retinotopic and functional regions-of-interest (ROIs) defined separately using fMRI on a subject-by-subject basis. Texture segmentation (tsVEP: segmenting versus non-segmenting) and cue-specific (csVEP: orientation versus phase) responses exhibited distinctive patterns of activity. Alternations between uniform and segmented images produced highly asymmetric responses that were larger after transitions from the uniform to the segmented state. Texture modulations that signaled the appearance of a figure evoked a pattern of increased activity starting at ∼143 ms that was larger in V1 and LOC ROIs, relative to identical modulations that didn't signal figure-ground segmentation. This segmentation-related activity occurred after an initial response phase that did not depend on the global segmentation structure of the image. The two cue types evoked similar tsVEPs up to 230 ms when they differed in the V4 and LOC ROIs. The evolution of the response proceeded largely in the feed-forward direction, with only weak evidence for feedback-related activity.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2012 · PLoS ONE
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    • "As such, they only provide approximations of the sources. Source modeling techniques that incorporate digitized spatial coordinates of electrodes on the scalp of each individual, as well as anatomical images of each subject's brain and skull (see Ales, Yates, & Norcia, 2010; Appelbaum et al., 2006, 2008, 2010) can account for this individual variation, and are therefore necessary to localize cortical sources more precisely. "
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    ABSTRACT: Motion contrast contributes to the segregation of a two-dimensional figure from its background, yet many questions remain about its neural mechanisms. We measured steady-state visual evoked potential (SSVEP) responses to moving dot displays in which figure regions emerged from and disappeared into the background at a specific temporal frequency (1.2Hz, F1), based on regional differences of dot direction and global direction coherence. The goal was to measure the cortical response function across a range of motion contrast magnitudes. In two experiments using both a low channel count electrode array (Experiment 1) and a high density array (Experiment 2), we observed two distinct phase-locked evoked responses that were similar across motion contrast type. A response at 1.2Hz (1F1) increased in amplitude with increasing magnitudes of direction or coherence contrast. A response at 2.4Hz (2F1) increased in amplitude, but saturated at low levels of direction or coherence contrast. The two components showed different scalp distributions - the 1F1 was strongest along medial occipital channels, while the 2F1 was bilaterally distributed. Taken together, the studies suggest that figures defined by different types of motion contrast are processed by cortical systems with similar dynamics, and that there are separable neural systems devoted to (i) signaling the absolute magnitude of motion contrast and (ii) detecting when a figure defined by motion contrast appears and disappears from view.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2011 · Vision research
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