Neurons in primate inferotemporal cortex (IT) are clustered into patches of shared image preferences. Functional imaging has shown that these patches are activated by natural categories (e.g., faces, body parts, and places), artificial categories (numerals, words) and geometric features (curvature and real-world size). These domains develop in the same cortical locations across monkeys and humans, which raises the possibility of common innate mechanisms. Although these commonalities could be high-level template-based categories, it is alternatively possible that the domain locations are constrained by low-level properties such as end-stopping, eccentricity, and the shape of the preferred images. To explore this, we looked for correlations among curvature preference, receptive field (RF) end-stopping, and RF eccentricity in the ventral stream. Werecorded from sites in V1, V4, and posterior IT (PIT) from six monkeys using microelectrode arrays. Across all visual areas, we found a tendency for end-stopped sites to prefer curved over straight contours. Further, we found a progression in population curvature preferences along the visual hierarchy, where, on average, V1 sites preferred straight Gabors, V4 sites preferred curved stimuli, and many PIT sites showed a preference for curvature that was concave relative to fixation. Our results provide evidence that high-level functional domains may be mapped according to early rudimentary properties of the visual system.
- Inferotemporal cortex