Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
We investigated the role played by the right parietal lobe in object identification and the ability to interpret object orientation, using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to momentarily interfere with ongoing cortical activity. Short trains of TMS pulses (12 Hz) were applied to a site overlying the right intraparietal sulcus/inferior parietal lobe while subjects performed either object identification tasks (i.e., picture-word verification and categorizing objects as natural or manufactured) or object orientation judgment tasks (i.e., picture-arrow verification and deciding whether an object was rotated clockwise or counterclockwise). Across different tasks, right parietal TMS impaired orientation judgments, but facilitated object identification, compared to TMS applied to a brain vertex control site. These complementary findings demonstrate that the right parietal lobe—a region belonging to the dorsal visual stream—is critical for processing the spatial attributes of objects, but not their identity. The observed improvement in object recognition, however, suggests an indirect role for the right parietal lobe in object recognition. We propose that this involves the creation of a spatial reference frame for the object, which allows interaction with the object and the individuation of specific viewing instances.