The European Journal of Neuroscience vol:11 issue:4 pages:1239-55
In order to investigate the neural coding of ordinate-level visual categories, single-cell recordings were made in the anterior temporal cortex of two rhesus monkeys performing a categorization of colour images of trees versus images of other objects. Neurons showed a high average degree of selectivity for these complex colour images. Although most neurons responded to trees and non-trees, about a quarter responded in a category-specific manner, e.g. to trees but not non-trees, and about one-tenth responded almost exclusively to exemplars of the trained category. The responses of these neurons were largely invariant for stimulus transformations, e. g. changes in position or size, and decreased with the degree of image scrambling, mimicking the behavioural results. However, the responses of single neurons were insufficiently stimulus invariant to accommodate the entire range of variability present in the features of exemplars within the same category. This strong within-category selectivity challenges the idea that a prototype is represented at the single neuron level, but suggests that ordinate-level categorization is based on a population of neurons, each selective for a limited set of exemplars.