Spatial layout perception, neural

John W. Philbeck, University of Wollongong

Philbeck, J. (2010). Spatial layout perception, neural. In E. Bruce. Goldstein (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Perception (pp. 902-908). Thousand Oaks, United States: Sage Publications.


The ability to perceive the layout of objects around us is so critical for survival that individuals who are unable to do so are virtually helpless. Understanding the neural underpinnings of spatial layout perception aids in predicting and dealing with the consequences of brain injuries and also provides an important framework for understanding how the brain builds representations of object locations under more normal circumstances. A majority of the brain is devoted to perceiving and making use of spatial information in some way. In the case of vision, visual information flows from the eyes, through the thalamus, and into the primary visual cortex; conscious perception of spatial layout is thought to be processed in neural pathways running from the visual cortex to the inferotemporal cortex and into the medial temporal lobe. Relatively little is known about the neural basis of specific forms of visual layout information. One important exception is that binocular (or retinal) disparity, a strong depth cue involving signals from the two eyes, is processed in the primary visual cortex-relatively early in visual processing. Motion-based depth cues, meanwhile, are processed in the V5/MT complex. This entry discusses what constitutes perception and the foundational processes of perception, as well as describing the neural basis of spatial perception in vision and audition.