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Keywords:

  • attention;
  • classification;
  • macaque;
  • object recognition

Abstract

Ambiguous images are interpreted in the context of biases about what they might be; these biases and the behavioral consequences induced by them may influence the processing of images. In this report, we examine neural responses in inferotemporal cortex (IT) during the interpretation of ambiguous photographs created by morphing between two photographs. Monkeys classified different images as being one of two choices and learned to classify most of the samples correctly. For one image (the ambiguous sample) reward was administered randomly for either possible choice, and the monkeys were free to classify that image based on their own interpretation, with no learning possible. The ambiguous samples were not classified randomly: the monkey interpreted the samples differently during different sessions. The interpretation of the ambiguous sample was, in turn, highly correlated with the normalized response of individual neurons in IT to the ambiguous sample. If an ambiguous sample was interpreted as a particular choice during a session, the response to that ambiguous sample more closely resembled the response to that choice. Identical ambiguous images were interpreted differently during different sessions, and neural responses reflected the differing interpretations of the image during that session. The relationship between the interpretation of the image and neural responses strengthened over the course of a session because neural responses shifted to more closely resemble the response to the initial interpretation of the image. The data support a flexible representation of visual stimuli in higher visual areas.