Our visual system can extract summary statistics from large collections of objects without forming detailed representations of the individual objects in the ensemble. In a region in ventral visual cortex encompassing the collateral sulcus and the parahippocampal gyrus and overlapping extensively with the scene-selective parahippocampal place area (PPA), we have previously reported fMRI adaptation to object ensembles when ensemble statistics repeated, even when local image features differed across images (e.g., two different images of the same strawberry pile). We additionally showed that this ensemble representation is similar to (but still distinct from) how visual texture patterns are processed in this region and is not explained by appealing to differences in the color of the elements that make up the ensemble. To further explore the nature of ensemble representation in this brain region, here we used PPA as our ROI and investigated in detail how the shape and surface properties (i.e., both texture and color) of the individual objects constituting an ensemble affect the ensemble representation in anterior-medial ventral visual cortex. We photographed object ensembles of stone beads that varied in shape and surface properties. A given ensemble always contained beads of the same shape and surface properties (e.g., an ensemble of star-shaped rose quartz beads). A change to the shape and/or surface properties of all the beads in an ensemble resulted in a significant release from adaptation in PPA compared with conditions in which no ensemble feature changed. In contrast, in the object-sensitive lateral occipital area (LO), we only observed a significant release from adaptation when the shape of the ensemble elements varied, and found no significant results in additional scene-sensitive regions, namely, the retrosplenial complex and occipital place area. Together, these results demonstrate that the shape and surface properties of the individual objects comprising an ensemble both contribute significantly to object ensemble representation in anterior-medial ventral visual cortex and further demonstrate a functional dissociation between object- (LO) and scene-selective (PPA) visual cortical regions and within the broader scene-processing network itself.

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