The lateral occipital complex (LOC), the cortical region critical for shape perception, is localized with fMRI by its greater BOLD activity when viewing intact objects compared with their scrambled versions (resembling texture). Despite hundreds of studies investigating LOC, what the LOC localizer accomplishes—beyond distinguishing shape from texture—has never been resolved. By independently scattering the intact parts of objects, the axis structure defining the relations between parts was no longer defined. This led to a diminished BOLD response, despite the increase in the number of independent entities (the parts) produced by the scattering, thus indicating that LOC specifies interpart relations, in addition to specifying the shape of the parts themselves. LOC's sensitivity to relations is not confined to those between parts but is also readily apparent between objects, rendering it—and not subsequent “place” areas—as the critical region for the representation of scenes. Moreover, that these effects are witnessed with novel as well as familiar intact objects and scenes suggests that the relations are computed on the fly, rather than being retrieved from memory.

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