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Michael Esterman, Steven Yantis; Category expectation modulates object-selective cortical activity. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):555. doi: 10.1167/8.6.555.
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Selective visual attention directed to a location (even in the absence of a stimulus) has been shown to increase activity in the visual cortex and to enhance perception of targets behaviorally. We further explored this effect by manipulating observers' expectations about the category of an upcoming target. Observers viewed a display in which an object (either a face or a house) gradually coheres from a state of dynamic noise; a cue established expectation about the object category. Behavioral data demonstrate that observers were faster to make discriminations about these images when the type of object matched their expectation. fMRI data reveal that this priming was associated with anticipatory increases in object-specific visual cortex, even in the absence of object-specific visual information. Expecting a face evoked increased activity in several face-selective cortical regions including the fusiform gyrus, superior temporal sulcus, and inferior occipital cortex. Conversely, expecting a house produced increased activity in parahippocampal regions. Brain regions associated with expecting faces and houses are contained within those associated with the perception of faces and houses, suggesting that visual anticipation involves similar mechanisms as involved in perception. Visual expectation leads to ‘seeing’ what we expect to see.
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