The rise and fall of priming: How visual exposure shapes cortical representations of objects

Laure Zago, Mark J. Fenske, Elissa Aminoff, Moshe Bar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


How does the amount of time for which we see an object influence the nature and content of its cortical representation? To address this question, we varied the duration of initial exposure to visual objects and then measured functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signal and behavioral performance during a subsequent repeated presentation of these objects. We report a novel 'rise-and-fall' pattern relating exposure duration and the corresponding magnitude of fMRI cortical signal. Compared with novel objects, repeated objects elicited maximal cortical response reduction when initially presented for 250 ms. Counter-intuitively, initially seeing an object for a longer duration significantly reduced the magnitude of this effect. This 'rise-and-fall' pattern was also evident for the corresponding behavioral priming. To account for these findings, we propose that the earlier interval of an exposure to a visual stimulus results in a fine-tuning of the cortical response, while additional exposure promotes selection of a subset of key features for continued representation. These two independent mechanisms complement each other in shaping object representations with experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1655-1665
Number of pages11
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2005
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank R. Henson, A. Martin, C. Tyler and N. Tzourio-Mazoyer for helpful comments and stimulating discussions; M. Vangel and D. Greve for statistical advice; B. Quinn and the Imaging Core at the Martinos Center at MGH for technical assistance; and H. Linz for assistance with data collection. Supported by the James S. McDonnell Foundation 21st Century Science Research Award in Bridging Brain, Mind and Behavior #21002039 (to M.B.), NINDS R01 NS44319 (to M.B.) and the MIND Institute.


  • Behavioral facilitation
  • Object representation
  • Occipito-temporal cortex
  • Priming
  • Prior exposure duration
  • Response sharpening and selectivity
  • Visual experience
  • Visual object recognition
  • fMRI repetition-related response reduction


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