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PLoS Biol. 2011 Apr;9(4):e1000608. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000608. Epub 2011 Apr 5.

The "parahippocampal place area" responds preferentially to high spatial frequencies in humans and monkeys.

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Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts, United States of America.


Defining the exact mechanisms by which the brain processes visual objects and scenes remains an unresolved challenge. Valuable clues to this process have emerged from the demonstration that clusters of neurons ("modules") in inferior temporal cortex apparently respond selectively to specific categories of visual stimuli, such as places/scenes. However, the higher-order "category-selective" response could also reflect specific lower-level spatial factors. Here we tested this idea in multiple functional MRI experiments, in humans and macaque monkeys, by systematically manipulating the spatial content of geometrical shapes and natural images. These tests revealed that visual spatial discontinuities (as reflected by an increased response to high spatial frequencies) selectively activate a well-known place-selective region of visual cortex (the "parahippocampal place area") in humans. In macaques, we demonstrate a homologous cortical area, and show that it also responds selectively to higher spatial frequencies. The parahippocampal place area may use such information for detecting object borders and scene details during spatial perception and navigation.

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