Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
We conducted three experiments to examine whether the anterior portion of the inferior temporal (IT) lobe is involved in the processing of visual objects in humans. In monkeys, damage to this region results in severe deficits in perception and in memory for visual objects. Our study was designed to examine both these processes in a patient (DM) with bilateral damage to the anterior portion of the inferior temporal lobe. Neuropsychological examination revealed a significant semantic impairment and a mild deficit in the discrimination of familiar objects from nonobjects. Despite these difficulties, the results of several studies indicated that DM was able to form and retain descriptions of the structure of objects. Specifically, DM showed normal perceptual priming for familiar and novel objects on implicit memory tests, even when the objects were transformed in size and left-right orientation. These results suggest that the anterior IT is not'involved in (1) the storage of pre-existing structural descriptions of known objects, (2) the ability to create new structural descriptions for novel objects, and (3) the ability to compute descriptions that are invariant with respect to changes in size and reflection. Instead, the anterior IT appears to provide the interface between structural descriptions of objects and their meanings.