MEG sensor patterns reflect perceptual but not categorical similarity of animate and inanimate objects
SourceNeuroImage, 193, (2019), pp. 167-177
Article / Letter to editor
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SubjectAction, intention, and motor control
Human high-level visual cortex shows a distinction between animate and inanimate objects, as revealed by fMRI. Recent studies have shown that object animacy can similarly be decoded from MEG sensor patterns. Which object properties drive this decoding? Here, we disentangled the influence of perceptual and categorical object properties by presenting perceptually matched objects (e.g., snake and rope) that were nonetheless easily recognizable as being animate or inanimate. In a series of behavioral experiments, three aspects of perceptual dissimilarity of these objects were quantified: overall dissimilarity, outline dissimilarity, and texture dissimilarity. Neural dissimilarity of MEG sensor patterns was modeled using regression analysis, in which perceptual dissimilarity (from the behavioral experiments) and categorical dissimilarity served as predictors of neural dissimilarity. We found that perceptual dissimilarity was strongly reflected in MEG sensor patterns from 80 ms after stimulus onset, with separable contributions of outline and texture dissimilarity. Surprisingly, when controlling for perceptual dissimilarity, MEG patterns did not carry information about object category (animate vs inanimate) at any time point. Nearly identical results were found in a second MEG experiment that required basic-level object recognition. This is in contrast to results observed in fMRI using the same stimuli, task, and analysis approach: fMRI voxel patterns in object-selective cortex showed a highly reliable categorical distinction even when controlling for perceptual dissimilarity. These results suggest that MEG sensor patterns do not capture object animacy independently of perceptual differences between animate and inanimate objects.
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