It is widely argued that the ability to recognize and identify manipulable objects depends on the retrieval and simulation of action-based information associated with using those objects. Evidence for that view comes from fMRI studies that have reported differential BOLD contrast in dorsal visual stream regions when participants view manipulable objects compared with a range of baseline categories. An alternative interpretation is that processes internal to the ventral visual pathway are sufficient to support the visual identification of manipulable objects and that the retrieval of object-associated use information is contingent on analysis of the visual input by the ventral stream. Here, we sought to distinguish these two perspectives by exploiting the fact that the dorsal stream is largely driven by magnocellular input, which is biased toward low spatial frequency visual information. Thus, any tool-selective responses in parietal cortex that are driven by high spatial frequencies would be indicative of inputs from the ventral visual pathway. Participants viewed images of tools and animals containing only low, or only high, spatial frequencies during fMRI. We find an internal parcellation of left parietal “tool-preferring” voxels: Inferior aspects of left parietal cortex are driven by high spatial frequency information and have privileged connectivity with ventral stream regions that show similar category preferences, whereas superior regions are driven by low spatial frequency information. Our findings suggest that the automatic activation of complex object-associated manipulation knowledge is contingent on analysis of the visual input by the ventral visual pathway.

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