How does the brain synthesize low-level neural signals for simple shape parts into coherent representations of complete objects? Here, we present evidence for a dynamic process of object part integration in macaque posterior inferotemporal cortex (IT). Immediately after stimulus onset, neural responses carried information about individual object parts (simple contour fragments) only. Subsequently, information about specific multipart configurations emerged, building gradually over the course of ∼60 ms, producing a sparser and more explicit representation of object shape. We show that this gradual transformation can be explained by a recurrent network process that effectively compares parts signals across neurons to generate inferences about multipart shape configurations. ©2006 Elsevier Inc.
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