Perceptual grouping and the interactions between visual cortical areas

Scott O. Murray, Paul Schrater, Daniel Kersten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

99 Scopus citations


Visual perception involves the grouping of individual elements into coherent patterns, such as object representations, that reduce the descriptive complexity of a visual scene. The computational and physiological bases of this perceptual remain poorly understood. We discuss recent fMRI evidence from our laboratory where we measured activity in a higher object processing area (LOC), and in primary visual cortex (V1) in response to visual elements that were either grouped into objects or randomly arranged. We observed significant activity increases in the LOC and concurrent reductions of activity in V1 when elements formed coherent shapes, suggesting that activity in early visual areas is reduced as a result of grouping processes performed in higher areas. In light of these results we review related empirical findings of context-dependent changes in activity, recent neurophysiology research related to cortical feedback, and computational models that incorporate feedback operations. We suggest that feedback from high-level visual areas reduces activity in lower areas in order to simplify the description of a visual image - consistent with both predictive coding models of perception and probabilistic notions of 'explaining away.'

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-705
Number of pages11
JournalNeural Networks
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004


  • Bayesian
  • Feedback
  • Grouping
  • Predictive coding
  • Probabilistic models

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