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J Neurophysiol. 2007 Jan;97(1):307-19. Epub 2006 Oct 4.

Comparison of shape encoding in primate dorsal and ventral visual pathways.

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Computational Neuroscience Laboratory, The Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA.


Ventral and dorsal visual pathways perform fundamentally different functions. The former is involved in object recognition, whereas the latter carries out spatial localization of stimuli and visual guidance of motor actions. Despite the association of the dorsal pathway with spatial vision, recent studies have reported shape selectivity in the dorsal stream. We compared shape encoding in anterior inferotemporal cortex (AIT), a high-level ventral area, with that in lateral intraparietal cortex (LIP), a high-level dorsal area, during a fixation task. We found shape selectivities of individual neurons to be greater in anterior inferotemporal cortex than in lateral intraparietal cortex. At the neural population level, responses to different shapes were more dissimilar in AIT than LIP. Both observations suggest a greater capacity in AIT for making finer shape distinctions. Multivariate analyses of AIT data grouped together similar shapes based on neural population responses, whereas such grouping was indistinct in LIP. Thus in a first comparison of shape response properties in late stages of the two visual pathways, we report that AIT exhibits greater capability than LIP for both object discrimination and generalization. These differences in the two visual pathways provide the first neurophysiological evidence that shape encoding in the dorsal pathway is distinct from and not a mere duplication of that formed in the ventral pathway. In addition to shape selectivity, we observed stimulus-driven cognitive effects in both areas. Stimulus repetition suppression in LIP was similar to the well-known repetition suppression in AIT and may be associated with the "inhibition of return" memory effect observed during reflexive attention.

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