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Human Brain Mapping





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Identifying what an object is, and whether an object has been encountered before, is a crucial aspect of human behavior. Despite this importance, we do not yet have a complete understanding of the neural basis of these abilities. Investigations into the neural organization of human object representations have revealed category specific organization in the ventral visual stream in perceptual tasks. Interestingly, these categories fall within broader domains of organization, with reported distinctions between animate, inanimate large, and inanimate small objects. While there is some evidence for category specific effects in the medial temporal lobe (MTL), in particular in perirhinal and parahippocampal cortex, it is currently unclear whether domain level organization is also present across these structures. To this end, we used fMRI with a continuous recognition memory task. Stimuli were images of objects from several different categories, which were either animate or inanimate, or large or small within the inanimate domain. We employed representational similarity analysis (RSA) to test the hypothesis that object-evoked responses in MTL structures during recognition-memory judgments also show evidence for domain-level organization along both dimensions. Our data support this hypothesis. Specifically, object representations were shaped by either animacy, real-world size, or both, in perirhinal and parahippocampal cortex, and the hippocampus. While sensitivity to these dimensions differed across structures when probed individually, hinting at interesting links to functional differentiation, similarities in organization across MTL structures were more prominent overall. These results argue for continuity in the organization of object representations in the ventral visual stream and the MTL.