Inter-area correlations in the ventral visual pathway reflect feature integration

Jeremy Freeman, Tobias H. Donner, David J. Heeger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During object perception, the brain integrates simple features into representations of complex objects. A perceptual phenomenon known as visual crowding selectively interferes with this process. Here, we use crowding to characterize a neural correlate of feature integration. Cortical activity was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging, simultaneously in multiple areas of the ventral visual pathway (V1-V4 and the visual word form area, VWFA, which responds preferentially to familiar letters), while human subjects viewed crowded and uncrowded letters. Temporal correlations between cortical areas were lower for crowded letters than for uncrowded letters, especially between V1 and VWFA. These differences in correlation were retinotopically specific, and persisted when attention was diverted from the letters. But correlation differences were not evident when we substituted the letters with grating patches that were not crowded under our stimulus conditions. We conclude that inter-area correlations reflect feature integration and are disrupted by crowding. We propose that crowding may perturb the transformations between neural representations along the ventral pathway that underlie the integration of features into objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2011


  • Crowding
  • Fmri
  • Inter-area correlations
  • Object recognition
  • Ventral stream
  • Visual word form area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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