Second-order textures - patterns that cannot be detected by mechanisms sensitive only to luminance changes - are ubiquitous in visual scenes, but the neuronal mechanisms mediating perception of such stimuli are not well understood. We used an adaptation protocol to measure neural activity in the human brain selective for the orientation of second-order textures. Functional MRI (fMRI) responses were measured in three subjects to presentations of first- and second-order probe gratings after adapting to a high-contrast first- or second-order grating that was either parallel or orthogonal to the probe gratings. First-order (LM) stimuli were generated by modulating the stimulus luminance. Second-order stimuli were generated by modulating the contrast (CM) or orientation (OM) of a first-order carrier. We used four combinations of adapter and probe stimuli: LM:LM, CM:CM, OM:OM, and LM: OM. The fourth condition tested for cross-modal adaptation with first-order adapter and second-order probe stimuli. Attention was diverted from the stimulus by a demanding task at fixation. Both firstand second-order stimuli elicited orientation-selective adaptation in multiple cortical visual areas, including V1, V2, V3, V3A/B, a newly identified visual area anterior to dorsal V3 that we have termed LO1, hV4, and VO1. For first-order stimuli (condition LM:LM), the adaptation was no larger in extrastriate areas than in V1, implying that the orientation-selective first-order (luminance) adaptation originated in V1. For second-order stimuli (conditions CM:CM and OM:OM), the magnitude of adaptation, relative to the absolute response magnitude, was significantly larger in VO1 (and for condition CM:CM, also in V3A/B and LO1) than in V1, suggesting that second-order stimulus orientation was extracted by additional processing after V1. There was little difference in the amplitude of adaptation between the second-order conditions. No consistent effect of adaptation was found in the cross-modal condition LM:OM, in agreement with psychophysical evidence for weak interactions between first- and second-order stimuli and computational models of separate mechanisms for first- and second-order visual processing.
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