Places in the brain: Bridging layout and object geometry in scene-selective cortex


Dillon*, M. R., Persichetti*, A. S., Spelke, E. S., & Dilks, D. D. (2017). Places in the brain: Bridging layout and object geometry in scene-selective cortex. Cerebral Cortex , 1-10.


Diverse animal species primarily rely on sense (left–right) and egocentric distance (proximal–distal) when navigating the environment. Recent neuroimaging studies with human adults show that this information is represented in 2 scene-selective cortical regions—the occipital place area (OPA) and retrosplenial complex (RSC)—but not in a third scene-selective region—the parahippocampal place area (PPA). What geometric properties, then, does the PPA represent, and what is its role in scene processing? Here we hypothesize that the PPA represents relative length and angle, the geometric properties classically associated with object recognition, but only in the context of large extended surfaces that compose the layout of a scene. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging adaptation, we found that the PPA is indeed sensitive to relative length and angle changes in pictures of scenes, but not pictures of objects that reliably elicited responses to the same geometric changes in object-selective cortical regions. Moreover, we found that the OPA is also sensitive to such changes, while the RSC is tolerant to such changes. Thus, the geometric information typically associated with object recognition is also used during some aspects of scene processing. These findings provide evidence that scene-selective cortex differentially represents the geometric properties guiding navigation versus scene categorization.


*These authors contributed equally to this work and are listed alphabetically

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Last updated on 06/25/2017