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Talk by Prof. Winrich Freiwald

The Rockefeller University, New York

20 Dec 2011 13:30
20 Dec 2011 14:30

Faces, Attention, and the Temporal Lobe

We perceive the world as a space of objects. Understanding the neural mechanisms of visual object recognition is a difficult task in part, because for any given object it is not clear, which exact part of the brain to study. Yet evolution has presented us with a unique model system to decipher these mechanisms. The temporal lobes of macaque monkeys contain neural machinery to support face recognition consisting of six discrete patches of face-selective cortex. The two main organizing features of this system – concentration of cells encoding the same complex object category into modules and spatial separation of modules – make it possible to break down the process of face recognition into its components. In my talk I will present anatomical results supporting the notion that the distributed face patches really are part of an integrated face-processing machine, and electrophysiological results showing that each patch subserves a distinct computational function. In the second part of my talk I will turn to something completely different, attention. Using fMRI in macaque monkeys, we found a network of areas to be modulated by attention in motion-discrimination task, included a hitherto unsuspected region within inferotemporal cortex, PITd. We then targeted PITd for electrophysiological recordings and electrical microstimulation in different tasks to learn about its role in sensory information processing and spatial attention. I will discuss the somewhat radical conclusion we arrived at, namely that PITd may constitute a region for attentional control.