• illusory contour;
  • inferior temporal cortex;
  • Kanizsa figures;
  • rhesus monkey;
  • shape selectivity


Stimulus reduction is an effective way to study visual performance. Cues such as surface characteristics, colour and inner lines can be removed from stimuli, revealing how the change affects recognition and neural processing. An extreme reduction is the removal of the very stimulus, defining it with illusory lines. Perceived boundaries without physical differences between shape and background are called illusory (or subjective) contours. Illusory and real contours activate early stages of the macaque visual pathway in similar ways. However, data relating to the processing of illusory contours in higher visual areas are scarce. We recently reported how illusory contours based on abutting-line gratings affect neurones in the monkey inferotemporal cortex, an area essential for object and shape vision. We now present data on how inferotemporal cortical neurones of monkeys react to another type of shapes, the Kanizsa figures. A set of line drawings, silhouettes, their illusory contour-based counterparts, and control shapes have been presented to awake, fixating rhesus monkeys while single-cell activity was recorded in the anterior part of the inferotemporal cortex. Most of the recorded neurones were responsive and selective to shapes presented as illusory contours. Shape selectivity was proved to be different for line drawings and illusory contours, and also for silhouettes and illusory contours. Neuronal response latencies for Kanizsa figures were significantly longer than those for line drawings and silhouettes. These results reveal differences in processing for Kanizsa figures and shapes having real contours in the monkey inferotemporal cortex.