Visual perception involves the grouping of individual elements into
coherent patterns that reduce the descriptive complexity of a visual scene.
The physiological basis of this perceptual simplification remains poorly
understood. We used functional MRI to measure activity in a higher object
processing area, the lateral occipital complex, and in primary visual cortex
in response to visual elements that were either grouped into objects or
randomly arranged. We observed significant activity increases in the lateral
occipital complex and concurrent reductions of activity in primary visual
cortex when elements formed coherent shapes, suggesting that activity in
early visual areas is reduced as a result of grouping processes performed
in higher areas. These findings are consistent with predictive coding models
of vision that postulate that inferences of high-level areas are subtracted
from incoming sensory information in lower areas through cortical feedback.