Size precedes view: developmental emergence of invariant object representations in lateral occipital complex.
Although object perception involves encoding a wide variety of object properties (e.g., size, color, viewpoint), some properties are irrelevant for identifying the object. The key to successful object recognition is having an internal representation of the object identity that is insensitive to these properties while accurately representing important diagnostic features. Behavioral evidence indicates that the formation of these kinds of invariant object representations takes many years to develop. However, little research has investigated the developmental emergence of invariant object representations in the ventral visual processing stream, particularly in the lateral occipital complex (LOC) that is implicated in object processing in adults. Here, we used an fMR adaptation paradigm to evaluate age-related changes in the neural representation of objects within LOC across variations in size and viewpoint from childhood through early adulthood. We found a dissociation between the neural encoding of object size and object viewpoint within LOC: by age of 5-10 years, area LOC demonstrates adaptation across changes in size, but not viewpoint, suggesting that LOC responses are invariant to size variations, but that adaptation across changes in view is observed in LOC much later in development. Furthermore, activation in LOC was correlated with behavioral indicators of view invariance across the entire sample, such that greater adaptation was correlated with better recognition of objects across changes in viewpoint. We did not observe similar developmental differences within early visual cortex. These results indicate that LOC acquires the capacity to compute invariance specific to different sources of information at different time points over the course of development.