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Distinct and overlapping fMRI activation networks for processing of novel identities and locations of objects


Dr Hilkka Soininen, 1Department of Neurology, as above.


The ventral visual stream processes information about the identity of objects (‘what’), whereas the dorsal stream processes the spatial locations of objects (‘where’). There is a corresponding, although disputed, distinction for the ventrolateral and dorsolateral prefrontal areas. Furthermore, there seems to be a distinction between the anterior and posterior medial temporal lobe (MTL) structures in the processing of novel items and new spatial arrangements, respectively. Functional differentiation of the intermediary mid-line cortical and temporal neocortical structures that communicate with the occipitotemporal, occipitoparietal, prefrontal, and MTL structures, however, is unclear. Therefore, in the present functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we examined whether the distinction among the MTL structures extends to these closely connected cortical areas. The most striking difference in the fMRI responses during visual presentation of changes in either items or their locations was the bilateral activation of the temporal lobe and ventrolateral prefrontal cortical areas for novel object identification in contrast to wide parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal activation for the novel locations of objects. An anterior-posterior distinction of fMRI responses similar to the MTL was observed in the cingulate/retrosplenial, and superior and middle temporal cortices. In addition to the distinct areas of activation, certain frontal, parietal, and temporo-occipital areas responded to both object and spatial novelty, suggesting a common attentional network for both types of changes in the visual environment. These findings offer new insights to the functional roles and intrinsic specialization of the cingulate/retrosplenial, and lateral temporal cortical areas in visuospatial cognition.