Magnocellular projections as the trigger of top-down facilitation in recognition.
Object recognition is traditionally viewed as a hierarchical, bottom-up neural process. This view has been challenged recently by theoretical models and by findings indicating that top-down processes are involved in facilitating recognition. However, how such high-level information can be activated quickly enough to facilitate the bottom-up processing is yet unknown. We propose that such top-down facilitation is triggered by magnocellular information projected early and rapidly to the orbitofrontal cortex. Using human neuroimaging, we show that stimuli designed to bias processing toward the magnocellular pathway differentially activated the orbitofrontal cortex compared with parvocellular-biased stimuli. Although the magnocellular stimuli had a lower contrast than the parvocellular stimuli, they were recognized faster and just as accurately. Moreover, orbitofrontal activity predicted the performance advantage for the magnocellular, but not for the parvocellular-biased, stimuli, whereas the opposite was true in the fusiform gyrus. Last, analyses of effective connectivity using dynamic causal modeling showed that magnocellular-biased stimuli significantly activated pathways from occipital visual cortex to orbitofrontal cortex and from orbitofrontal cortex to fusiform gyrus. Conversely, parvocellular-biased stimuli significantly activated a pathway from the occipital visual cortex to fusiform gyrus. Our findings support the proposal that fast magnocellular projections linking early visual and inferotemporal object recognition regions with the orbitofrontal cortex facilitate object recognition by enabling the generation of early predictions.