The present work was aimed at characterizing picture priming effects from two complementary behavioral and functional neuroimaging (positron emission tomography, PET) studies. In two experiments, we used the same line drawings of common living/nonliving objects in a tachistoscopic identification task to contrast two forms of priming. In the within-format priming condition (picture-picture), subjects were instructed to perform a perceptual encoding task in the study phase, whereas in the cross-format priming condition (word-picture), they were instructed to perform a semantic encoding task. In Experiment 1, we showed significant priming effects in both priming conditions. However, the magnitude of priming effects in the same-format/perceptual encoding condition was higher than that in the different-format/semantic encoding condition, while the recognition performance did not differ between the two conditions. This finding supports the existence of two forms of priming that may be subserved by different systems. Consistent with these behavioral findings, the PET data for Experiment 2 revealed distinct priming-related patterns of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) decreases for the two priming conditions when primed items were compared to unprimed items. The same-format priming condition involved reductions in cerebral activity particularly in the right extrastriate cortex and left cerebellum, while the different-format priming condition was associated with rCBF decreases in the left inferior temporo-occipital cortex, left frontal regions, and the right cerebellum. These results suggest that the extrastriate cortex may subserve general aspects of perceptual priming, independent of the kind of stimuli, and that the right part of this cortex could underlie the same-format-specific system for pictures. These data also support the idea that the cross-format/semantic encoding priming for pictures represents a form of lexico-semantic priming subserved by a semantic neural network extending from left temporo-occipital cortex to left frontal regions. These results reinforce the distinction between perceptual and conceptual priming for pictures, indicating that different cerebral processes and systems are implicated in these two forms of picture priming.

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