Combinatorial codes in ventral temporal lobe for object recognition: Haxby (2001) revisited: Is there a "face" area?

Stephen José Hanson, Toshihiko Matsuka, James V. Haxby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

204 Scopus citations


Haxby et al. [Science 293 (2001) 2425] recently argued that category-related responses in the ventral temporal (VT) lobe during visual object identification were overlapping and distributed in topography. This observation contrasts with prevailing views that object codes are focal and localized to specific areas such as the fusiform and parahippocampal gyri. We provide a critical test of Haxby's hypothesis using a neural network (NN) classifier that can detect more general topographic representations and achieves 83% correct generalization performance on patterns of voxel responses in out-of-sample tests. Using voxel-wise sensitivity analysis we show that substantially the same VT lobe voxels contribute to the classification of all object categories, suggesting the code is combinatorial. Moreover, we found no evidence for local single category representations. The neural network representations of the voxel codes were sensitive to both category and superordinate level features that were only available implicitly in the object categories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-166
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • Combinatorial codes
  • Object recognition
  • Ventral temporal lobe


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