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Expertise modulates the neural basis of context dependent recognition of objects and their relations

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Abstract

Recognition of objects and their relations is necessary for orienting in real life. We examined cognitive processes related to recognition of objects, their relations, and the patterns they form by using the game of chess. Chess enables us to compare experts with novices and thus gain insight in the nature of development of recognition skills. Eye movement recordings showed that experts were generally faster than novices on a task that required enumeration of relations between chess objects because their extensive knowledge enabled them to immediately focus on the objects of interest. The advantage was less pronounced on random positions where the location of chess objects, and thus typical relations between them, was randomized. Neuroimaging data related experts' superior performance to the areas along the dorsal stream—bilateral posterior temporal areas and left inferior parietal lobe were related to recognition of object and their functions. The bilateral collateral sulci, together with bilateral retrosplenial cortex, were also more sensitive to normal than random positions among experts indicating their involvement in pattern recognition. The pattern of activations suggests experts engage the same regions as novices, but also that they employ novel additional regions. Expert processing, as the final stage of development, is qualitatively different than novice processing, which can be viewed as the starting stage. Since we are all experts in real life and dealing with meaningful stimuli in typical contexts, our results underline the importance of expert-like cognitive processing on generalization of laboratory results to everyday life. Hum Brain Mapp, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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