Recently, we identified, using fMRI, three bilateral regions in the ventral temporal cortex that responded preferentially to faces, houses, and chairs [Ishai, A., Ungerleider, L. G., Martin, A., Schouten, J. L., & Haxby, J. Y. (1999). Distributed representation of objects in the human ventral visual pathway. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., 96, 9379-9384]. Here, we report differential patterns of activation, similar to those seen in the ventral temporal cortex, in bilateral regions of the ventral occipital cortex. We also found category-related responses in the dorsal occipital cortex and in the superior temporal sulcus. Moreover, rather than activating discrete, segregated areas, each category was associated with its own differential pattern of response across a broad expanse of cortex. The distributed patterns of response were similar across tasks (passive viewing, delayed matching) and presentation formats (photographs, line drawings). We propose that the representation of objects in the ventral visual pathway, including both occipital and temporal regions, is not restricted to small, highly selective patches of cortex but, instead, is a distributed representation of information about object form. Within this distributed system, the representation of faces appears to be less extensive as compared to the representations of nonface objects.

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