Parsing rooms: the role of the PPA and RSC in perceiving object relations and spatial layout

Merim Bilalić, Tobias Lindig, Luca Turella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


The perception of a scene involves grasping the global space of the scene, usually called the spatial layout, as well as the objects in the scene and the relations between them. The main brain areas involved in scene perception, the parahippocampal place area (PPA) and retrosplenial cortex (RSC), are supposed to mostly support the processing of spatial layout. Here we manipulated the objects and their relations either by arranging objects within rooms in a common way or by scattering them randomly. The rooms were then varied for spatial layout by keeping or removing the walls of the room, a typical layout manipulation. We then combined a visual search paradigm, where participants actively search for an object within the room, with multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA). Both left and right PPA were sensitive to the layout properties, but the right PPA was also sensitive to the object relations even when the information about objects and their relations is used in the cross-categorization procedure on novel stimuli. The left and right RSC were sensitive to both spatial layout and object relations, but could only use the information about object relations for cross-categorization to novel stimuli. These effects were restricted to the PPA and RSC, as other control brain areas did not display the same pattern of results. Our results underline the importance of employing paradigms that require participants to explicitly retrieve domain-specific processes and indicate that objects and their relations are processed in the scene areas to a larger extent than previously assumed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2505-2524
Number of pages20
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Issue number7
Early online date17 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


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