Brain Perceives Big Things and Little Things Differently

The brain perceives big and little things qualitatively different.


A Real-World Size Organization of Object Responses in Occipitotemporal Cortex

Neuron, Volume 74, Issue 6, 1114-1124, 21 June 2012  DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2012.04.036


  • Large-scale organization of big and small object responses across the cortex
  • New functional regions show robust response differences between big and small objects
  • Regions are tolerant to retinal size changes and activate during mental imagery
  • We propose real-world size is an organizing dimension of object representation


While there are selective regions of occipitotemporal cortex that respond to faces, letters, and bodies, the large-scale neural organization of most object categories remains unknown. Here, we find that object representations can be differentiated along the ventral temporal cortex by their real-world size. In a functional neuroimaging experiment, observers were shown pictures of big and small real-world objects (e.g., table, bathtub; paperclip, cup), presented at the same retinal size. We observed a consistent medial-to-lateral organization of big and small object preferences in the ventral temporal cortex, mirrored along the lateral surface. Regions in the lateral-occipital, inferotemporal, and parahippocampal cortices showed strong peaks of differential real-world size selectivity and maintained these preferences over changes in retinal size and in mental imagery. These data demonstrate that the real-world size of objects can provide insight into the spatial topography of object representation


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