Preserved Haptic Shape Processing after Bilateral LOC Lesions
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The visual and haptic perceptual systems are understood to share a common neural representation of object shape. A region thought to be critical for recognizing visual and haptic shape information is the lateral occipital complex (LOC). We investigated whether LOC is essential for haptic shape recognition in humans by studying behavioral responses and brain activation for haptically explored objects in a patient (M.C.) with bilateral lesions of the occipitotemporal cortex, including LOC. Despite severe deficits in recognizing objects using vision, M.C. was able to accurately recognize objects via touch. M.C.'s psychophysical response profile to haptically explored shapes was also indistinguishable from controls. Using fMRI, M.C. showed no object-selective visual or haptic responses in LOC, but her pattern of haptic activation in other brain regions was remarkably similar to healthy controls. Although LOC is routinely active during visual and haptic shape recognition tasks, it is not essential for haptic recognition of object shape.