Where Do Objects Become Scenes?


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Abstract

Regions tuned to individual visual categories, such as faces and objects, have been discovered in the later stages of the ventral visual pathway in the cortex. But most visual experience is composed of scenes, where multiple objects are interacting. Such interactions are readily described by prepositions or verb forms, for example, a bird perched on a birdhouse. At what stage in the pathway does sensitivity to such interactions arise? Here we report that object pairs shown as interacting, compared with their side-by-side depiction (e.g., a bird besides a birdhouse), elicit greater activity in the lateral occipital complex, the earliest cortical region where shape is distinguished from texture. Novelty of the interactions magnified this gain, an effect that was absent in the side-by-side depictions. Scene-like relations are thus likely achieved simultaneously with the specification of object shape.

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