• inferotemporal cortex;
  • macaque;
  • object recognition;
  • plasticity;
  • visual expertise


Visual expertise in discriminating fine differences among a group of similar objects can be obtained through extensive long-term training. Here we investigated the neural bases of this superior capability. The inferotemporal cortex, located at the final stage along the ventral visual pathway, was a candidate site in monkeys because cells there respond to various complex features of objects. To identify the changes that underlie the development of visual expertise in fine discrimination, we created a set of parametrically designed object stimuli and compared the stimulus selectivity of inferotemporal cells between two different training histories. One group of recordings was conducted after the monkeys had been extensively trained for fine discrimination (fine-discrimination period) and the other after the monkeys had been exposed only for coarse discrimination (coarse-discrimination period). We found that the tuning of responses recorded in the fine-discrimination period was more monotonic in the stimulus parameter space. The stimuli located at the extreme in the parameter space evoked the maximum responses in a larger proportion of cells and the direction of response decrease in the parameter space was more consistent. Moreover, the stimulus arrangement reconstructed from the responses recorded during the fine-discrimination period was more similar to the original stimulus arrangement. These results suggest that visual expertise could be based on the development, in the inferotemporal cortex, of neuronal selectivity monotonically tuned over the parameter space of the object images.