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Neuron. 2004 Apr 8;42(1):163-72.

Subcortical discrimination of unperceived objects during binocular rivalry.

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Developmental Neuroimaging Laboratory, Child Study Center, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Rapid identification of behaviorally relevant objects is important for survival. In humans, the neural computations for visually discriminating complex objects involve inferior temporal cortex (IT). However, less detailed but faster form processing may also occur in a phylogenetically older subcortical visual system that terminates in the amygdala. We used binocular rivalry to present stimuli without conscious awareness, thereby eliminating the IT object representation and isolating subcortical visual input to the amygdala. Functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed significant brain activation in the left amygdala but not in object-selective IT in response to unperceived fearful faces compared to unperceived nonface objects. These findings indicate that, for certain behaviorally relevant stimuli, a high-level cortical representation in IT is not required for object discrimination in the amygdala.

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