Preserved local but disrupted contextual figure-ground influences in an individual with abnormal function of intermediate visual areas

Joseph L. Brooks, Sharon Gilaie-Dotan, Geraint Rees, Shlomo Bentin, Jon Driver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Visual perception depends not only on local stimulus features but also on their relationship to the surrounding stimulus context, as evident in both local and contextual influences on figure-ground segmentation. Intermediate visual areas may play a role in such contextual influences, as we tested here by examining LG, a rare case of developmental visual agnosia. LG has no evident abnormality of brain structure and functional neuroimaging showed relatively normal V1 function, but his intermediate visual areas (V2/V3) function abnormally. We found that contextual influences on figure-ground organization were selectively disrupted in LG, while local sources of figure-ground influences were preserved. Effects of object knowledge and familiarity on figure-ground organization were also significantly diminished. Our results suggest that the mechanisms mediating contextual and familiarity influences on figure-ground organization are dissociable from those mediating local influences on figure-ground assignment. The disruption of contextual processing in intermediate visual areas may play a role in the substantial object recognition difficulties experienced by LG.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1393-1407
Number of pages15
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
JLB was supported by a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship. SGD was supported by a Marie-Curie post-doctoral IEF fellowship. GR was supported by the Wellcome Trust. SB was supported by NIMH grant R01 MH 64458-09 . JD was supported by the Wellcome Trust, MRC, BBSRC , and a Royal Society Anniversary Research Professorship. Professor Jon Driver (last author) died Nov 28, 2011 before the submission of the revised version of the manuscript. Sincere thanks to LG for his patience with our testing.


  • Context
  • Developmental visual agnosia
  • Figure-ground organization
  • Gestalt
  • Grouping
  • Integration
  • Perceptual organization
  • Segmentation


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