Seeing with profoundly deactivated mid-level visual areas: Non-hierarchical functioning in the human visual cortex

Sharon Gilaie-Dotan, Anat Perry, Yoram Bonneh, Rafael Malach, Shlomo Bentin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


A fundamental concept in visual processing is that activity in high-order object-category distinctive regions (e.g., lateral occipital complex, fusiform face area, middle temporal+) is dependent on bottom-up flow of activity in earlier retinotopic areas (V2, V3, V4) whose main input originates from primary visual cortex (V1). Thus, activity in down stream areas should reflect lower-level inputs. Here we qualify this notion reporting case LG, a rare case of developmental object agnosia and prosopagnosia. In this person, V1 was robustly activated by visual stimuli, yet intermediate areas (V2-V4) were strongly deactivated. Despite this intermediate deactivation, activity in down stream visual areas remained robust, showing selectivity for houses and places, while selectivity for faces and objects was impaired. The extent of impairment evident in functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography activations was somewhat larger in the left hemisphere. This pattern of brain activity, coupled with fairly adequate everyday visual performance is compatible with models emphasizing the role of nonlinear local "amplification" of neuronal inputs in eliciting activity in ventral and dorsal visual pathways as well as perceptual experience in the human brain. Thus, while the proper functioning of intermediate areas appears essential for specialization in the cortex, daily visual behavior and reading are maintained even with deactivated intermediate visual areas.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1687-1703
Number of pages17
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
NIMH grant (R01 MH 64458) to S.B.; ISF grant; Benoziyo Center for Neurodegenerative Disorders, and Dominique Center, and the Minerva Foundation to Rafael Malach.


  • Cortical selectivity
  • ERPs
  • FMRI
  • Prosopagnosia
  • Visual agnosia
  • Visual system


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