Authors: Rishi Rajalingham, Kohitij Kar, Sachi Sanghavi, Stanislas Dehaene & James J. DiCarlo.
Publication: Nature Communications (Nature Research). Volume 11, Article number: 3886 2020 | DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-17714-3
The ability to recognize written letter strings is foundational to human reading, but the underlying neuronal mechanisms remain largely unknown. Recent behavioral research in baboons suggests that non-human primates may provide an opportunity to investigate this question. We recorded the activity of hundreds of neurons in V4 and the inferior temporal cortex (IT) while naïve macaque monkeys passively viewed images of letters, English words and non-word strings, and tested the capacity of those neuronal representations to support a battery of orthographic processing tasks. We found that simple linear read-outs of IT (but not V4) population responses achieved high performance on all tested tasks, even matching the performance and error patterns of baboons on word classification. These results show that the IT cortex of untrained primates can serve as a precursor of orthographic processing, suggesting that the acquisition of reading in humans relies on the recycling of a brain network evolved for other visual functions.
Rajalingham, R., Kar, K., Sanghavi, S. et al. The inferior temporal cortex is a potential cortical precursor of orthographic processing in untrained monkeys. Nat Commun 11, 3886 (2020)