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Making a Scene in the Brain
Dr. Russell Epstein
Tuesday, March 11, 2008, 01:00pm - 02:00pm
University of Pennsylvania, Department of Psychology
When we experience the visual world, we experience it in the form of objects embedded within a surrounding scene.� While considerable efforts have gone into understanding object recognition, the problem of scene recognition has garnered much less attention.� Neuroimaging data suggest that the human brain contains specialized systems for scene perception that are distinct from the more well-study systems involved in object perception.� In particular, two cortical regions -- the parahippocampal place area (PPA) and retrosplenial complex (RSC) -- respond more strongly when subjects view scenes such as landscapes, cityscapes, and rooms than when they view other stimuli such as faces or decontextualized objects.� These findings lead to the inevitable question: why do these regions respond so strongly to scenes?� In this talk, I will present evidence that the preferential response to scenes in the PPA and RSC reflects the engagement of mechanisms that extract navigationally-relevant information from visual input.� In particular, the PPA and RSC appear to support distinct but complementary mechanisms for place recognition, with the PPA encoding a viewpoint-specific "snapshot" of the local scene and RSC supporting processes that allow the local scene to be situated within the broader spatial environment.� I will also discuss results from fMRI adaptation studies that provide insight into how these regions encode scenes in order to mediate their distinct recognition functions.�