The Role of Visual and Semantic Properties in the Emergence of Category-Specific Patterns of Neural Response in the Human Brain

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Brain-imaging studies have found distinct spatial and temporal patterns of response to different object categories across the brain. However, the extent to which these categorical patterns of response reflect higher-level semantic or lower-level visual properties of the stimulus remains unclear. To address this question, we measured patterns of EEG response to intact and scrambled images in the human brain. Our rationale for using scrambled images is that they have many of the visual properties found in intact images, but do not convey any semantic information. Images from different object categories (bottle, face, house) were briefly presented (400 ms) in an event-related design. A multivariate pattern analysis revealed categorical patterns of response to intact images emerged ∼80–100 ms after stimulus onset and were still evident when the stimulus was no longer present (∼800 ms). Next, we measured the patterns of response to scrambled images. Categorical patterns of response to scrambled images also emerged ∼80–100 ms after stimulus onset. However, in contrast to the intact images, distinct patterns of response to scrambled images were mostly evident while the stimulus was present (∼400 ms). Moreover, scrambled images were able to account only for all the variance in the intact images at early stages of processing. This direct manipulation of visual and semantic content provides new insights into the temporal dynamics of object perception and the extent to which different stages of processing are dependent on lower-level or higher-level properties of the image.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0158-16.2016
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016, The Author(s).


  • category
  • EEG
  • image
  • MVPA
  • object

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