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Abstract

Differential impact of posterior lesions in the left and right hemisphere on visual category learning and generalization to contrast reversal

Berthold Langguth, Martin Jüttner, Theodor Landis, Marianne Regard and Ingo Rentschler

Hemispheric differences in the learning and generalization of pattern categories were explored in two experiments involving sixteen patients with unilateral posterior, cerebral lesions in the left (LH) or right (RH) hemisphere. In each experiment participants were first trained to criterion in a supervised learning paradigm to categorize a set of patterns that either consisted of simple geometric forms (Experiment 1) or unfamiliar grey-level images (Experiment 2). They were then tested for their ability to generalize acquired categorical knowledge to contrast-reversed versions of the learning patterns. The results showed that RH lesions impeded category learning of unfamiliar grey-level images more severely than LH lesions, whereas this relationship appeared reversed for categories defined by simple geometric forms. With regard to generalization to contrast reversal, categorization performance of LH and RH patients was unaffected in the case of simple geometric forms. However, generalization to of contrast-reversed grey-level images distinctly deteriorated for patients with LH lesions relative to those with RH lesions, with the latter (but not the former) being consistently unable to identify the pattern manipulation. These findings suggest a differential use of contrast information in the representation of pattern categories in the two hemispheres. Such specialization appears in line with previous distinctions between a predominantly lefthemispheric, abstract-analytical and a righthemispheric, specific-holistic representation of object categories, and their prediction of a mandatory representation of contrast polarity in the RH. Some implications for the well-established dissociation of visual disorders for the recognition of faces and letters are discussed.

Key words: vision, object recognition, categorization, learning, invariance, laterality

Langguth, B., Jüttner, M., Landis, T., Regard M. & Rentschler I. (2009) Differential impact of posterior lesions in the left and right hemisphere on visual category learning and generalization to contrast reversal. Neuropsychologia 47, 2927-2936.

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