Visual recognition based on temporal cortex cells: viewer-centred processing of pattern configuration

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A model of recognition is described based on cell properties in the ventral cortical stream of visual processing in the primate brain. At a critical intermediate stage in this system, 'Elaborate' feature sensitive cells respond selectively to visual features in a way that depends on size (+/-1 octave), orientation (+/-45 degrees) but does not depend on position within central vision (+/-5 degrees). These features are simple conjunctions of 2-D elements (e.g. a horizontal dark area above a dark smoothly convex area). They can arise either as elements of an object's surface pattern or as a 3-D component bounded by an object's external contour. By requiring a combination of several such features without regard to their position within the central region of the visual image, 'Pattern' sensitive cells at higher levels can exhibit selectivity for complex configurations that typify objects seen under particular viewing conditions. Given that input features to such Pattern sensitive cells are specified in approximate size and orientation, initial cellular 'representations' of the visual appearance of object type (or object example) are also selective for orientation and size. At this level, sensitivity to object view (+/-60 degrees) arises because visual features disappear as objects are rotated in perspective. Processing is thus viewer-centred and the neurones only respond to objects seen from particular viewing conditions or 'object instances'. Combined sensitivity to multiple features (conjunctions of elements) independent of their position, establishes selectivity for the configurations of object parts (from one view) because rearranged configurations of the same parts yield images lacking some of the 2-D visual features present in the normal configuration.

Different neural populations appear to be selectively tuned to particular components of the same biological object (e.g. face, eyes, hands, legs), perhaps because the independent articulation of these components gives rise to correlated activity in different sets of input visual features. Generalisation over viewing conditions for a given object can be established by hierarchically pooling outputs of view-condition specific cells with pooling operations dependent on the continuity in experience across viewing conditions. Different object parts are seen together and different views are seen in succession when the observer walks around the object. The view specific coding that characterises the selectivity of cells in the temporal lobe can be seen as a natural consequence of selective experience of objects from particular vantage points. View specific coding for the face and body also has great utility in understanding complex social signals, a property that may not be feasible with object-centred processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)518-41
Number of pages24
JournalZeitschrift für Naturforschung C - A Journal of Biosciences
Issue number08-Jul
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1998


  • visual recognition
  • temporal cortex cells
  • pattern configuration


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