Neuroanatomical Correlates of Visual Car Expertise

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Expertise in non-visual domains such as musical performance is associated with differences in gray matter volume of particular regions of the human brain. Whether this is also the case for expertise in visual object recognition is unknown. Here we tested whether individual variability in the ability to recognize car models, from novice performance to high level of expertise, is associated with specific structural changes in gray matter volume. We found that inter-individual variability in expertise with cars was significantly and selectively correlated with gray matter volume in prefrontal cortex. Inter-individual differences in the recognition of airplanes, that none of the participants had expertise with, were correlated with structural variability of regions bordering the visual cortex. These results highlight the role of prefrontal regions outside the visual cortex in accessing and processing visual knowledge about objects from the domain of expertise and suggest that expertise in visual object recognition may entail structural changes in regions associated with semantic knowledge.