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Object recognition: Holistic representations in the monkey brain


Logothetis,  NK
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Logothetis, N. (2000). Object recognition: Holistic representations in the monkey brain. Spatial Vision, 13(2-3), 165-178. doi:10.1163/156856800741180.

Cognitive-psychological and neuropsychological studies suggest that the human brain processes facial information in a distinct manner, relying on mechanisms that are anatomically and functionally different from those underlying the recognition of other objects. Face recognition, for instance, can be disrupted selectively as a result of localized brain damage, and relies strongly on holistic information rather than on the mere processing of local features. Similarly, in the non-human primate, distinct neocortical and limbic structures have cell populations responding specifically to face stimuli and only weakly to other visual patterns. Moreover, such cells tend to respond to the entire configuration of a face rather than to individual facial features. But are faces the only objects represented in this way? Here I present some evidence suggesting that at least one aspect of facial processing, the processing of holistic information, may be employed by the primate brain when recognizing any arbitrary homogeneous class of even artificial objects, which the monkey has to individually learn, remember, and recognize again and again from among a large number of distractors sharing a number of common features with the target. Acquiring such an expertise can induce configurational selectivity in the response of neurons in the visual system. Our findings suggests that regarding their neural encoding faces are unlikely to be 'special', but they rather are the default 'special class' of the primate visual system.