When cartoonists use speed lines-also called motion streaks-to suggest the speed of a stationary object, they use form to imply motion. The goal of this study was to investigate the mechanisms that mediate the percept of implied motion in the human visual cortex. In an adaptation functional imaging paradigm we presented Glass patterns that, just like speed lines, imply motion but do not on average contain coherent motion energy. We found selective adaptation to these patterns in the human motion complex, the lateral occipital complex (LOC), and earlier visual areas. Glass patterns contain both local orientation features and global structure. To disentangle these aspects we performed a control experiment using Glass patterns with minimal local orientation differences but large global structure differences. This experiment showed that selectivity for Glass patterns arises in part in areas beyond V1 and V2. Interestingly, the selective adaptation transferred from implied motion stimuli to similar real motion patterns in dorsal but not ventral areas. This suggests that the same subpopulations of cells in dorsal areas that are selective for implied motion are also selective for real motion. In other words, these cells are invariant with respect to the cue (implied or real) that generates the motion. We conclude that the human motion complex responds to Glass patterns as if they contain coherent motion. This, presumably, is the reason why these patterns appear to move coherently. The LOC, however, has different cells that respond to the structure of real motion patterns versus implied motion patterns. Such a differential response may allow ventral areas to further analyze the structure of global patterns.
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