Full scenes produce more activation than close-up scenes and scene-diagnostic objects in retrosplenial cortex: An fMRI study.


We used fMRI to directly compare activation in two cortical regions previously identified as relevant to real-world scene processing: retrosplenial cortex and a region of posterior parahippocampal cortex functionally defined as the parahippocampal place area (PPA). We compared activation in these regions to full views of scenes from a global perspective, close-up views of sub-regions from the same scene category, and single objects highly diagnostic of that scene category. Faces were included as a control condition. Activation in parahippocampal place area was greatest for full scene views that explicitly included the 3D spatial structure of the environment, with progressively less activation for close-up views of local scene regions containing diagnostic objects but less explicitly depicting 3D scene geometry, followed by single scene-diagnostic objects. Faces did not activate parahippocampal place area. In contrast, activation in retrosplenial cortex was greatest for full scene views, and did not differ among close-up views, diagnostic objects, and faces. The results showed that parahippocampal place area responds in a graded fashion as images become more completely scene-like and include more explicit 3D structure, whereas retrosplenial cortex responds in a step-wise manner to the presence of a complete scene. These results suggest scene processing areas are particularly sensitive to the 3D geometric structure that distinguishes scenes from other types of complex and meaningful visual stimuli.


John M. Henderson
Christine L Larson
David C. Zhu