Neural Correlates of Object vs. Spatial Visualization Abilities

Neuroscience research demonstrates that the visual areas of the brain are divided into two distinct pathways. The dorsal, or spatial, and ventral, or object pathways. The object pathway  runs from occipital lobe to inferior temporal lobe, processing visual appearances of objects in terms of color, detail, shape, and size. The spatial pathway runs from occipital lobe to posterior parietal lobe, processing spatial attributes such as location, movement, spatial transformations  and spatial relations.


We are using fRMI to explore the neural mechanisms underlying individual differences in object vs. spatial visualization ability
Visualization Ability
. Our results (Motes, Malach, & Kozhevnikov , 2008) suggest that visual-spatial ability is related to distinct patterns of neural activity during the processing of visual-spatial information. When given an object imagery task, both spatial and object visualizers showed bilateral task-related activity in object processing areas, but spatial visualizers showed greater bilateral activity in object processing areas than did object visualizers.  In addition, spatial visualizers also showed greater activation in attentional areas than the object visualizers.  The data indicate that high object-processing ability is associated with more efficient use of visual-object resources, resulting in less neural activity in the object-processing pathway.

Currently, we are examining the neural underpinnings of visual-spatial and visual-object processing in members of different professions.