A cortical mechanism for triggering top-down facilitation in visual object recognition

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The majority of the research related to visual recognition has so far focused on bottom-up analysis, where the input is processed in a cascade of cortical regions that analyze increasingly complex information. Gradually more studies emphasize the role of top-down facilitation in cortical analysis, but it remains something of a mystery how such processing would be initiated. After all, top-down facilitation implies that high-level information is activated earlier than some relevant lower-level information. Building on previous studies, I propose a specific mechanism for the activation of top-down facilitation during visual object recognition. The gist of this hypothesis is that a partially analyzed version of the input image (i.e., a blurred image) is projected rapidly from early visual areas directly to the prefrontal cortex (PFC). This coarse representation activates in the PFC expectations about the most likely interpretations of the input image, which are then back-projected as an "initial guess" to the temporal cortex to be integrated with the bottom-up analysis. The top-down process facilitates recognition by substantially limiting the number of object representations that need to be considered. Furthermore, such a rapid mechanism may provide critical information when a quick response is necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600-609
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - 15 May 2003
Externally publishedYes


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