Seeing the Forest but not the Trees: Studies of Real and Virtual Lesions
Jennifer Steeves
York University

Research over the last few decades has shown that there are discrete brain regions that process visual image categories such as faces, objects and scenes. My basic science research examines some of the cortical areas involved in visual image processing using brain stimulation, patient, and fMRI approaches. We have shown that the “occipital face area” plays a greater role in face recognition than had been previously thought (Solomon-Harris et al., 2013; Steeves et al., 2006, 2009), challenging the dominant strictly hierarchical view of face recognition. In some of our recent work, we have shown that scene recognition can operate independently of object recognition—that is, it does not operate strictly in a bottom-up manner, assembling a representation of a scene from its component objects (Ganaden et al., 2013; Mullin & Steeves, 2011, 2013; Rafique, et al., 2015; Steeves et al, 2004). We temporarily disrupt object processing using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to the LOC, the brain area that codes objects. We have shown downstream interactions between these object and scene regions suggesting separate but interactive pathways for object and scene processing that is evident both at a behavioural (Mullin & Steeves, 2011) and neural level (Mullin & Steeves, 2013, Rafique, et al., 2015). This research furthers our understanding of how the brain constructs the visual world around us.