Spatial dynamics of masked picture repetition effects

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The aim of this study was to further elucidate the mechanisms of early and automatic object processing using a masked picture priming paradigm with both identity and exemplar repetition in functional MRI (fMRI). Masked repetition priming has been commonly used with words to isolate automatic, rapidly occurring mechanisms involved in visual word recognition; however, studies using the technique of masked priming with rapid presentation of pictures have been limited. This study demonstrates how the masked priming technique can be used to study early, automatic processing of rapidly presented complex objects. Temporal-occipital regions previously found to be sensitive to repetition priming in both masked word and unmasked picture studies were found to show repetition suppression for the identity primes only. Most notably, when divided into anterior and posterior divisions, the fusiform gyrus showed anatomically specific repetition suppression only in the posterior portion. This finding is comparable to that found in a previous study of masked word priming, and the similarity may suggest an overlap in the early identification processes for visual word form and visual object processing in this region. Finally, masked repetition of different exemplar objects did not result in reliable neural effects, suggesting that the underlying mechanisms of the more semantic-based, different exemplar priming may occur later or require the intervention of conscious processes.

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