GT Neuro Seminar Series

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“Scene Recognition: How and Why?”

Danny Dilks, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
Emory University

Our ability to perceive the visual environment is remarkable: we can recognize a place or “scene” (e.g., a kitchen, a beach, Georgia Tech) within a fraction of a second – even if we have never seen that particular place before (Potter, 1976) – and almost simultaneously use that information to seamlessly navigate. Given the ecological importance of scene recognition, it is perhaps not surprising then that particular regions of the human brain are specialized for processing visual scene information: the parahippocampal place area (PPA) (Epstein & Kanwisher, 1998), the retrosplenial complex (RSC) (Aguirre & D’Esposito, 1999), and the occipital place area (OPA) (Dilks et al., 2013). While the exact function each of these regions plays in scene processing remains unknown, it is currently believed that the scene processing system as a whole (comprised of the three scene-selective cortical regions) is a monolithic system in the service of navigation. However, in this talk, I will present multiple lines of evidence challenging the pervasive theory that all three scene-selective cortical regions serve the purpose of navigation. Instead, I propose that scene processing is comprised of two distinct pathways: one responsible for navigation, including RSC and OPA, and another responsible for scene categorization (e.g., recognizing a scene as a kitchen, a beach, Georgia Tech), including PPA.

This presentation can be seen via videoconference on the Emory Campus HSRB E260


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