Cortical representation of persistent visual stimuli

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Research into visual neural activity has focused almost exclusively on onset- or change-driven responses and little is known about how information is encoded in the brain during sustained periods of visual perception. We used intracranial recordings in humans to determine the degree to which the presence of a visual stimulus is persistently encoded by neural activity. The correspondence between stimulus duration and neural response duration was strongest in early visual cortex and gradually diminished along the visual hierarchy, such that is was weakest in inferior-temporal category-selective regions. A similar posterior-anterior gradient was found within inferior temporal face-selective regions, with posterior but not anterior sites showing persistent face-selective activity. The results suggest that regions that appear uniform in terms of their category selectivity are dissociated by how they temporally represent a stimulus in support of ongoing visual perception, and delineate a large-scale organizing principle of the ventral visual stream.

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