Sensitivity to object impossibility in the human visual cortex: Evidence from functional connectivity

Erez Freud, Gideon Rosenthal, Tzvi Ganel, Galia Avidan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Processing spatial configuration is a fundamental requirement for object recognition. Using fMRI, the neural basis underlying this ability was examined while human participants viewed possible and visually similar, but spatially impossible, objects presented for either long or short exposure duration. Response profiles in object-selective cortical regions exhibited sensitivity to object possibility, but only for the long exposure duration. Contrary, functional connectivity, indexed by the pairwise correlations between activation profiles across ROIs, revealed sensitivity to possibility, evident in enhanced correlations for impossible compared with possible objects. Such sensitivity was found even following a brief exposure duration, which allowed only minimal awareness of possibility. Importantly, this sensitivity was correlated with participantsʼ general spatial ability as assessed by an independent neuropsychological test. These results suggest that the visual system is highly susceptible to objectsʼ 3-D structural information even with minimal perceptual awareness. Such sensitivity is captured at the level of functional connectivity between object-selective regions, rather than the absolute level of within-region activity, implicating the role of interregional synchronization in the representation of objectsʼ 3-D structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1029-1043
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - 3 May 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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