Functional imaging studies of priming-related repetition phenomena have become widely used to study neural object representation. Although blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) repetition decreases can sometimes be observed without awareness of repetition, any role for spatial attention in BOLD repetition effects remains largely unknown. We used fMRI in 13 healthy subjects to test whether BOLD repetition decreases for repeated objects in ventral visual cortices depend on allocation of spatial attention to the prime. Subjects performed a size-judgment task on a probe object that had been attended or ignored in a preceding prime display of 2 lateralized objects. Reaction times showed faster responses when the probe was the same object as the attended prime, independent of the view tested (identical vs. mirror image). No behavioral effect was evident from unattended primes. BOLD repetition decreases for attended primes were found in lateral occipital and fusiform regions bilaterally, which generalized across identical and mirror-image repeats. No repetition decreases were observed for ignored primes. Our results suggest a critical role for attention in achieving visual representations of objects that lead to both BOLD signal decreases and behavioral priming on repeated presentation.
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