Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The occipito-temporal cortex is strongly implicated in carrying out the high-level computations associated with vision. In human neuroimaging studies, focal regions are consistently found within this broad region that respond strongly and selectively to faces, bodies, or objects. A notable feature of these selective regions is that they are found in pairs. In the posterior-lateral occipito-temporal cortex, focal selectivity is found for faces (occipital face area), bodies (extrastriate body area), and objects (lateral occipital). These three areas are found bilaterally and at close quarters to each other. Likewise, in the ventro-medial occipito-temporal cortex, three similar category-selective regions are found, also in proximity to each other: for faces (fusiform face area), bodies (fusiform body area), and objects (posterior fusiform). Here we review some of the extensive evidence on the functional properties of these areas with two aims. First, we seek to identify principles that distinguish the posterior-lateral and ventro-medial clusters of selective regions but that apply generally within each cluster across the three stimulus kinds. Our review identifies and elaborates several principles by which these relationships hold. In brief, the posterior-lateral representations are more primitive, local, and stimulus-driven relative to the ventro-medial representations, which in contrast are more invariant to visual features, global, and linked to the subjective percept. Second, because the evidence base of studies that compare both posterior-lateral and ventro-medial representations of faces, bodies, and objects is still relatively small, we seek to provoke more cross-talk among the research strands that are traditionally separate. We identify several promising approaches for such future work.