"What I cannot create, I do not understand." – R. Feynman
Daniel D. Dilks, Joshua B. Julian, Jonas Kubilius, Elizabeth S. Spelke, Nancy Kanwisher

Mirror-image sensitivity and invariance in object and scene processing pathways

The Journal of Neuroscience , 31 (31) , 11305-11312 article pdf on MITnews poster at VSS 2009

Electrophysiological and behavioral studies in many species have demonstrated mirror-image confusion for objects, perhaps because many objects are vertically symmetric (e.g., a cup is the same cup when seen in left or right profile). In contrast, the navigability of a scene changes when it is mirror reversed, and behavioral studies reveal high sensitivity to this change. Thus, we predicted that representations in object-selective cortex will be unaffected by mirror reversals, whereas representations in scene-selective cortex will be sensitive to such reversals. To test this hypothesis, we ran an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging adaptation experiment in human adults. Consistent with our prediction, we found tolerance to mirror reversals in one object-selective region, the posterior fusiform sulcus, and a strong sensitivity to these reversals in two scene-selective regions, the transverse occipital sulcus and the retrosplenial complex. However, a more posterior object-selective region, the lateral occipital sulcus, showed sensitivity to mirror reversals, suggesting that the sense information that distinguishes mirror images is represented at earlier stages in the object-processing hierarchy. Moreover, one scene-selective region (the parahippocampal place area or PPA) was tolerant to mirror reversals. This last finding challenges the hypothesis that the PPA is involved in navigation and reorientation and suggests instead that scenes, like objects, are processed by distinct pathways guiding recognition and action.