The representation of symmetry in multi-voxel response patterns and functional connectivity throughout the ventral visual stream.
Van Meel C., Baeck A., Gillebert CR., Wagemans J., Op de Beeck HP.
Several computational models explain how symmetry might be detected and represented in the human brain. However, while there is an abundance of psychophysical studies on symmetry detection and several neural studies showing where and when symmetry is detected in the brain, important questions remain about how this detection happens and how symmetric patterns are represented. We studied the representation of (vertical) symmetry in regions of the ventral visual stream, using multi-voxel pattern analyses (MVPA) and functional connectivity analyses. Our results suggest that neural representations gradually change throughout the ventral visual stream, from very similar part-based representations for symmetrical and asymmetrical stimuli in V1 and V2, over increasingly different representations for symmetrical and asymmetrical stimuli which are nevertheless still part-based in both V3 and V4, to a more holistic representation for symmetrical compared to asymmetrical stimuli in high-level LOC. This change in representations is accompanied by increased communication between left and right retinotopic areas, evidenced by higher interhemispheric functional connectivity during symmetry perception in areas V2 and V4.