Neuro-cognitive mechanisms of global Gestalt perception in visual quantification

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Recent neuroimaging studies identified posterior regions in the temporal and parietal lobes as neuro-functional correlates of subitizing and global Gestalt perception. Beyond notable overlap on a neuronal level both mechanisms are remarkably similar on a behavioral level representing both a specific form of visual top-down processing where single elements are integrated into a superordinate entity. In the present study, we investigated whether subitizing draws on principles of global Gestalt perception enabling rapid top-down processes of visual quantification. We designed two functional neuroimaging experiments: a task identifying voxels responding to global Gestalt stimuli in posterior temporo-parietal brain regions and a visual quantification task on dot patterns with magnitudes within and outside the subitizing range. We hypothesized that voxels activated in global Gestalt perception should respond stronger to dot patterns within than those outside the subitizing range. The results confirmed this prediction for left-hemispheric posterior temporo-parietal brain areas. Additionally, we trained a classifier with response patterns from global Gestalt perception to predict neural responses of visual quantification. With this approach we were able to classify from TPJ Gestalt ROIs of both hemispheres whether a trial requiring subitizing was processed. The present study demonstrates that mechanisms of subitizing seem to build on processes of high-level visual perception.HIGHLIGHTSSubitizing and global Gestalt perception share behavioral characteristics and considerable neuronal overlap in TPJ-areas.TPJ-areas involved in Gestalt perception respond stronger to subitizing than estimation trials during visual quantification.A SVM trained on Gestalt perception was able to classify trials as subitizing and non-subitizing.First study to demonstrate influences of visual top-down processes on visual quantification.

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