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Timecourse of neural signatures of object recognition

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How long does it take for the human visual system to recognize objects? This issue is important for understanding visual cortical function as it places constraints on models of the information processing underlying recognition. We designed a series of event-related potential (ERP) experiments to measure the timecourse of electrophysiological correlates of object recognition. We find two distinct types of components in the ERP recorded during categorization of natural images. One is an early presentation-locked signal arising around 135 ms that is present when there are low-level feature differences between images. The other is a later, recognition-related component arising between 150-300 ms. Unlike the early component, the latency of the later component covaries with the subsequent reaction time. In contrast to previous studies suggesting that the early, presentation-locked component of neural activity is correlated to recognition, these results imply that the neural signatures of recognition have a substantially later and variable time of onset.

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