Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Everyday objects are often composed of multiple parts, each with a unique surface texture. The neural substrates mediating the integration of surface features on different object parts are not fully understood, and potential contributions by both the ventral and dorsal visual pathways are possible. To explore these substrates, we collected fMRI data while human participants performed a difference detection task on two objects with textured parts. The objects could either differ in the assignment of the same texture to different object parts (“texture-location”) or the types of texture (“texture-type”). In the ventral stream, comparable BOLD activation levels were observed in response to texture-location and texture-type differences. In contrast, in a priori localized spatial processing regions of the dorsal stream, activation was greater for texture-location than texture-type differences, and the magnitude of the activation correlated with behavioral performance. We confirmed the reliance of surface texture to object part mapping on spatial processing mechanisms in subsequent psychophysical experiments, in which participants detected a difference in the spatial distance of an object relative to a reference line. In this task, distracter objects occasionally appeared, which differed in either texture-location or texture-type. Distracter texture-location differences slowed detection of spatial distance differences, but texture-type differences did not. More importantly, the distracter effects were only observed when texture-location differences were presented within whole shapes and not between separated shape parts at distinct spatial locations. We conclude that both the mapping of texture features to object parts and the representation of object spatial position are mediated by common neural substrates within the dorsal visual pathway.