Letters to Nature

Nature 395, 500-503 (1 October 1998) | doi:10.1038/26752; Accepted 23 July 1998

Shape selectivity in primate lateral intraparietal cortex

A. B. Sereno1,2 & J. H. R. Maunsell1,3

  1. Division of Neuroscience S-603, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA
  2. Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neoscience, Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey 07102, USA
  3. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA

Correspondence to: A. B. Sereno1,2 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to A.B.S. (e-mail: Email: sereno@cmbn.rutgers.edu).

The extrastriate visual cortex can be divided into functionally distinct temporal and parietal regions, which have been implicated in feature-related ('what') and spatial ('where') vision, respectively1. Neuropsychological studies of patients with damage to either the temporal or the parietal regions provide support for this functional distinction2, 3, 4. Given the prevailing modular theoretical framework and the fact that prefrontal cortex receives inputs from both temporal and parietal streams5,6, recent studies have focused on the role of prefrontal cortex in understanding where and how information about object identity is integrated with (or remains segregated from) information about object location7, 8, 9, 10. Here we show that many neurons in primate posterior parietal cortex (the 'where' pathway) show sensory shape selectivities to simple, two-dimensional geometric shapes while the animal performs a simple fixation task. In a delayed match-to-sample paradigm, many neuronal units also show significant differences in delay-period activity, and these differences depend on the shape of the sample. These results indicate that units in posterior parietal cortex contribute to attending to and remembering shape features in a way that is independent of eye movements, reaching, or object manipulation. These units show shape selectivity equivalent to any shown in the ventral pathway.