Object categories are recognized at multiple levels of hierarchical abstractions. Psychophysical studies have shown a more rapid perceptual access to the mid-level category information (e.g., human faces) than the higher (superordinate; e.g., animal) or the lower (subordinate; e.g., face identity) level. Mid-level category members share many features, whereas few features are shared among members of different mid-level categories. To understand better the neural basis of expedited access to mid-level category information, we examined neural responses of the inferior temporal (IT) cortex of macaque monkeys viewing a large number of object images. We found an earlier representation of mid-level categories in the IT population and single-unit responses compared with superordinate- and subordinate-level categories. The short-latency representation of mid-level category information shows that visual cortex first divides the category shape space at its sharpest boundaries, defined by high/low within/between-group similarity. This short-latency, mid-level category boundary map may be a prerequisite for representation of other categories at more global and finer scales.
- category representation
- hierarchical abstraction
- inferior temporal cortex
- object recognition
- temporal dynamics
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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