Journal of Neurophysiology vol:82 issue:1 pages:131-42
Missal et al. observed that the responses of inferior temporal (IT) neurons to a shape were reduced markedly when this shape partially overlapped a larger second shape, suggesting that shape interactions determine IT responses. In the present study, we compared the responses of IT neurons with combinations of two shapes which did or did not overlap and studied the effect of the relative and absolute positions of the two shapes. In a first test, a preferred shape (figure) was presented at the fixation point while a second, nonpreferred, shape was displayed either in the background of the figure (overlap) or at one of four peripheral positions (nonoverlap). Controls consisted of presentations of either shape in isolation at each of the five positions. The stimuli were presented during a fixation task. The responses to these combinations of two shapes were, on average, reduced compared with those elicited by the preferred shape presented in isolation. This suppression occurred whether or not the two shapes overlapped, but the degree of suppression in the overlap and nonoverlap conditions did not correlate. These interactions were stronger when the interacting stimulus was located in the contralateral compared with the ipsilateral hemifield. The position of the interacting stimulus within a hemifield significantly affected the suppression associated with combined shapes in some neurons. The strength of the interactions of the two nonoverlapping shapes depended on the shape of the interacting stimulus in half of the neurons. In a second test, the preferred shape and interacting stimulus could appear either at the fixation point or at one eccentric position. Here we found that the suppression was, on average, strongest when the interacting stimulus, rather than the preferred shape, was presented at the fixation position. Also, in 40% of the neurons, the response reduction was similar in overlap and nonoverlap conditions if effects of stimulus position were taken into account. In both tests, we also measured the responses to combinations of a nonpreferred shape and the interacting stimulus and showed that the response to a combination of two nonpreferred shapes was, in general, smaller than the response to a combination of the preferred and nonpreferred shape. Overall the results indicate that stimulus interactions in the receptive fields of IT neurons can be position and shape selective; this can contribute to the coding for the relationships between object parts.