Visual quality determines the direction of neural repetition effects

Nicholas B. Turk-Browne, D. J. Yi, A. B. Leber, M. M. Chun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


One ubiquitous finding in functional magnetic resonance imaging studies is that repeated stimuli elicit lower responses than novel stimuli. In apparent contradiction, some studies have reported the exact opposite effect - greater responses to repeated than novel stimuli - in many of the same brain regions. Interestingly, these latter enhancement effects are typically obtained when stimuli have been degraded. To explore this observation, the present study examines the degree to which visual quality mediates repetition effects in a stimulus-selective ventral visual area. Subjects were presented with grayscale photographs of scenes that were either near or substantially above visual threshold, as determined by calibrating image contrast to behavioral performance. The presentation of 2 identical high-contrast scenes elicited lower blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) responses than the presentation of 2 different high-contrast scenes (repetition attenuation). Conversely, the presentation of 2 identical low-contrast scenes elicited greater BOLD responses than the presentation of 2 different low-contrast scenes (repetition enhancement). Neurophysiological studies suggest that repetition attenuation in ventral visual areas may reflect the reactivation of perceptual representations that have become sparse and selective as a result of prior experience, whereas repetition enhancement may reflect spared access to existing representations by severely degraded input.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-433
Number of pages9
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • Parahippocampal place area
  • Perceptual priming
  • Repetition attenuation
  • Repetition enhancement
  • Repetition suppression
  • Scene processing


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