Perirhinal cortex resolves feature ambiguity in complex visual discriminations.
The European journal of neuroscience
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The present experiment tested predictions of a 'perceptual-mnemonic/feature conjunction' (PMFC) model of perirhinal cortex function. The model predicts that lesions of perirhinal cortex should disrupt complex visual discriminations with a high degree of 'feature ambiguity', a property of visual discrimination problems that can emerge when features of an object are rewarded when they are part of one object, but not when part of another. As feature ambiguity is thought to be the critical factor, such effects should be independent of the number of objects to be discriminated. This was tested directly, by assessing performance of control monkeys and monkeys with aspiration lesions of perirhinal cortex on a series of concurrent discriminations in which the number of object pairs was held constant, but the degree of feature ambiguity was varied systematically. Monkeys were tested in three conditions: Maximum Feature Ambiguity, in which all features were explicitly ambiguous (AB+, CD+, BC-, AD-; the biconditional problem); Minimum Feature Ambiguity, in which no features were explicitly ambiguous (AB+, CD+, EF-, GH-); and Intermediate Feature Ambiguity, in which half the features were explicitly ambiguous (AB+, CD+, CE-, AF-). The pattern of results closely matched that predicted by simulations using a connectionist network: monkeys with perirhinal cortex lesions were unimpaired in the Minimum Feature Ambiguity condition, mildly impaired in the Intermediate Feature Ambiguity condition and severely impaired in the Maximum Feature Ambiguity condition. These results confirm the predictions of the PMFC model, and force a reconsideration of prevailing views regarding perirhinal cortex function.