Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Visual object expertise correlates with neural selectivity in the fusiform face area (FFA). Although behavioral studies suggest that visual expertise is associated with increased use of holistic and configural information, little is known about the nature of the supporting neural representations. Using high-resolution 7-T functional magnetic resonance imaging, we recorded the multivoxel activation patterns elicited by whole cars, configurally disrupted cars, and car parts in individuals with a wide range of car expertise. A probabilistic support vector machine classifier was trained to differentiate activation patterns elicited by whole car images from activation patterns elicited by misconfigured car images. The classifier was then used to classify new combined activation patterns that were created by averaging activation patterns elicited by individually presented top and bottom car parts. In line with the idea that the configuration of parts is critical to expert visual perception, car expertise was negatively associated with the probability of a combined activation pattern being classified as a whole car in the right anterior FFA, a region critical to vision for categories of expertise. Thus, just as found for faces in normal observers, the neural representation of cars in right anterior FFA is more holistic for car experts than car novices, consistent with common mechanisms of neural selectivity for faces and other objects of expertise in this area.