Neural correlates of visual form and visual spatial processing

Liming Shen, Xiaoping Hu, Essa Yacoub, Kamil Ugurbil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Cortico-cortical projections for visual processing that originate from the striate cortex are organized into two streams. The dorsal stream projects to tile parietal region and the ventral stream to the inferior temporal region. One hypothesis is that the dorsal stream processes visual spatial information, and the ventral stream processes visual object information. Although recognition of human faces or common objects has been shown preferentially to activate the ventral stream, the issue of when such processing starts to engage the ventral or the dorsal stream is not clear. The question explored in this study is whether processing of visual form per se without evoking the brain mechanisms that are associated with recognition of human faces or common objects is sufficient to activate the ventral stream more significantly relative to the condition when only visual spatial processing is involved. Functional magnetic resonance images were acquired while subjects performed a delayed comparison task in which either visual spatial or visual form information was processed. Cortical areas that were preferentially activated in visual spatial or visual form processing showed not only ventral-dorsal segregation, but also hemispheric laterality. The results extended previous findings by showing that preferential activation in the ventral pathway is not contingent upon such powerful stimuli as faces and common objects. Processing of simple visual form information is cause enough for such activation to be observed. A strong left hemisphere dominance in visual form recognition was also revealed. The observed laterality may be a reflection that the left hemisphere is more important in symbolic and/or semantic coding of visual form information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-71
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999


  • Functional imaging
  • Hemispheric laterality
  • Object recognition
  • Working memory


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