The neural mechanisms and role of attention in the processing of visual form defined by luminance or motion cues were studied using magnetoencephalography. Subjects viewed bilateral stimuli composed of moving random dots and were instructed to covertly attend to either left or right hemifield stimuli in order to detect designated target stimuli that required a response. To generate form-from-motion (FFMo) stimuli, a subset of the dots could begin to move coherently to create the appearance of a simple form (e.g., square). In other blocks, to generate form-from-luminance (FFLu) stimuli that served as a control, a gray stimulus was presented superimposed on the randomly moving dots. Neuromagnetic responses were observed to both the FFLu and FFMo stimuli and localized to multiple visual cortical stages of analysis. Early activity in low-level visual cortical areas (striate/early extrastriate) did not differ for FFLu versus FFMo stimuli, nor as a function of spatial attention. Longer latency responses elicited by the FFLu stimuli were localized to the ventral-lateral occipital cortex (LO) and the inferior temporal cortex (IT). The FFMo stimuli also generated activity in the LO and IT, but only after first eliciting activity in the lateral occipital cortical region corresponding to MT/V5, resulting in a 50–60 msec delay in activity. All of these late responses (MT/V5, LO, and IT) were significantly modulated by spatial attention, being greatly attenuated for ignored FFLu and FFMo stimuli. These findings argue that processing of form in IT that is defined by motion requires a serial processing of information, first in the motion analysis pathway from V1 to MT/V5 and thereafter via the form analysis stream in the ventral visual pathway to IT.

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