We used human functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to test whether the human lateral occipital complex (LOC), an area known to be involved in the analysis of visual shape, represents the perceived 3-D shape of objects or simply their 2-D contours. We employed an fMRI adaptation paradigm, in which repeated presentation of a stimulus results in decreased responses compared to responses to different stimuli. We found adaptation in the LOC for images of objects with the same perceived 3-D shape structure but different 2-D contours that resulted from small rotations of the objects in the frontal plane or in depth. However, no adaptation was observed in the LOC for images of objects that had the same 2-D contours but differed in their perceived 3-D shape; namely, 2-D silhouettes versus 3-D shaded images of objects, or convex versus concave objects. Differences in the fMRI adaptation responses across subregions in the LOC suggest that different neural populations in the LOC may mediate different mechanisms for the processing of object features.
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