Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
November 2018, Vol. 30, No. 11, Pages 1559-1576
© 2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Tracking the Spatiotemporal Neural Dynamics of Real-world Object Size and Animacy in the Human Brain
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Animacy and real-world size are properties that describe any object and thus bring basic order into our perception of the visual world. Here, we investigated how the human brain processes real-world size and animacy. For this, we applied representational similarity to fMRI and MEG data to yield a view of brain activity with high spatial and temporal resolutions, respectively. Analysis of fMRI data revealed that a distributed and partly overlapping set of cortical regions extending from occipital to ventral and medial temporal cortex represented animacy and real-world size. Within this set, parahippocampal cortex stood out as the region representing animacy and size stronger than most other regions. Further analysis of the detailed representational format revealed differences among regions involved in processing animacy. Analysis of MEG data revealed overlapping temporal dynamics of animacy and real-world size processing starting at around 150 msec and provided the first neuromagnetic signature of real-world object size processing. Finally, to investigate the neural dynamics of size and animacy processing simultaneously in space and time, we combined MEG and fMRI with a novel extension of MEG–fMRI fusion by representational similarity. This analysis revealed partly overlapping and distributed spatiotemporal dynamics, with parahippocampal cortex singled out as a region that represented size and animacy persistently when other regions did not. Furthermore, the analysis highlighted the role of early visual cortex in representing real-world size. A control analysis revealed that the neural dynamics of processing animacy and size were distinct from the neural dynamics of processing low-level visual features. Together, our results provide a detailed spatiotemporal view of animacy and size processing in the human brain.