Object recognition in clutter: Cortical responses depend on the type of learning

Jay Hegdé, Serena K. Thompson, Mark Brady, Daniel Kersten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Theoretical studies suggest that the visual system uses prior knowledge of visual objects to recognize them in visual clutter, and posit that the strategies for recognizing objects in clutter may differ depending on whether or not the object was learned in clutter to begin with. We tested this hypothesis using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of human subjects. We trained subjects to recognize naturalistic, yet novel objects in strong or weak clutter. We then tested subjects' recognition performance for both sets of objects in strong clutter. We found many brain regions that were differentially responsive to objects during object recognition depending on whether they were learned in strong or weak clutter. In particular, the responses of the left fusiform gyrus (FG) reliably reflected, on a trial-to-trial basis, subjects' object recognition performance for objects learned in the presence of strong clutter. These results indicate that the visual system does not use a single, general-purpose mechanism to cope with clutter. Instead, there are two distinct spatial patterns of activation whose responses are attributable not to the visual context in which the objects were seen, but to the context in which the objects were learned.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number170
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberJUNE 2012
StatePublished - Jun 19 2012


  • Camouflage
  • Clutter tolerance
  • Configural processing
  • Crowding
  • Perceptual learning
  • Pop-out
  • Visual context
  • Visual search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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