Cortical specialization for concentric shape processing

Serge O. Dumoulin*, Robert F. Hess

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


It is current dogma that neurons in primary visual cortex extract local edges from the scene, from which later visual areas reconstruct more meaningful shapes. In intermediate areas, such as area V4, responses are driven by features more complex than local oriented edges but more basic than meaningful shapes. The present study was motivated by the proposal that concentric (circular) shape processing is an important aspect of intermediate shape processing and is proposed to occur in area V4. However, previous studies are not able to discriminate between the number of orientations within the image nor how these orientations vary across space (orientation gradient, contrast or curvature) as opposed to concentric shape processing per se. We address the question whether V4 responses are driven by curvature or circularity. We use fMRI and tightly controlled narrowband stimuli with identical local and global properties. These patterns either form random or circular patterns with tightly matched orientation gradients and therefore similar curvature. We find stronger responses to circular patterns in areas V3/VP and V4. Our results suggest that extracting circular shape is an important step in intermediate shape processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1608-1613
Number of pages6
JournalVision Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2007


  • Curvature
  • fMRI
  • Form vision
  • Functional brain imaging
  • Spatial vision


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