Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Neurophysiological, behavioral, and computational data indicate that visual analysis may start with the parallel extraction of different elementary attributes at different spatial frequencies and follows a predominantly coarse-to-fine (CtF) processing sequence (low spatial frequencies [LSF] are extracted first, followed by high spatial frequencies [HSF]). Evidence for CtF processing within scene-selective cortical regions is, however, still lacking. In the present fMRI study, we tested whether such processing occurs in three scene-selective cortical regions: the parahippocampal place area (PPA), the retrosplenial cortex, and the occipital place area. Fourteen participants were subjected to functional scans during which they performed a categorization task of indoor versus outdoor scenes using dynamic scene stimuli. Dynamic scenes were composed of six filtered images of the same scene, from LSF to HSF or from HSF to LSF, allowing us to mimic a CtF or the reverse fine-to-coarse (FtC) sequence. Results showed that only the PPA was more activated for CtF than FtC sequences. Equivalent activations were observed for both sequences in the retrosplenial cortex and occipital place area. This study suggests for the first time that CtF sequence processing constitutes the predominant strategy for scene categorization in the PPA.