Robust Selectivity to Two-Object Images in Human Visual Cortex

Yigal Agam, Hesheng Liu, Alexander Papanastassiou, Calin Buia, Alexandra J. Golby, Joseph R. Madsen, Gabriel Kreiman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We can recognize objects in complex images in a fraction of a second [1-3]. Neuronal responses in macaque areas V4 and inferior temporal cortex [4-15] to preferred stimuli are typically suppressed by the addition of other objects within the receptive field (see, however, [16, 17]). How can this suppression be reconciled with rapid visual recognition in complex scenes? Certain "special categories" could be unaffected by other objects [18], but this leaves the problem unsolved for other categories. Another possibility is that serial attentional shifts help ameliorate the problem of distractor objects [19-21]. Yet, psychophysical studies [1-3], scalp recordings [1], and neurophysiological recordings [14-16, 22-24] suggest that the initial sweep of visual processing contains a significant amount of information. We recorded intracranial field potentials in human visual cortex during presentation of flashes of two-object images. Visual selectivity from temporal cortex during the initial ∼200 ms was largely robust to the presence of other objects. We could train linear decoders on the responses to isolated objects and decode information in two-object images. These observations are compatible with parallel, hierarchical, and feed-forward theories of rapid visual recognition [25] and may provide a neural substrate to begin to unravel rapid recognition in natural scenes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)872-879
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 11 2010
Externally publishedYes



ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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