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Keywords:

  • dorsal and ventral pathways;
  • functional imaging;
  • human;
  • memory;
  • visual cortex

Abstract

We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare the human brain regions involved in orientation discrimination of two-dimensional (2D) objects and gratings. The orientation discrimination tasks, identification and successive discrimination, were contrasted to a dimming detection control condition with identical retinal input. Regions involved in orientation discrimination were very similar for the two types of tasks and for the two types of stimuli and both belonged to the dorsal and ventral visual pathways. They included posterior occipital, lingual, posterior fusiform, inferior temporal, dorsal intraparietal and medial parietal regions. The main difference between the two types of stimuli was a larger activation of precuneus when 2D objects were used compared to gratings. The main difference between discrimination tasks was an enhanced activity, at the group level, in superior frontal sulcus in identification compared to successive discrimination, and at least at the single subject level, a larger activity in right fusiform cortex in successive discriminations compared to identification. Thus, in contradiction to generally accepted views, orientation discrimination of gratings and objects involve largely similar networks including both ventral and dorsal visual regions.