Researchers utilize neuroimaging to show how brain uses objects to recognize scenes

Researchers utilize neuroimaging to show how brain uses objects to recognize scenes
Scene patterns evoked by actual scenes in one half of scans were compared to predictor patterns derived from object-evoked patterns from the opposite half.

Research conducted by Boston College neuroscientist Sean MacEvoy and colleague Russell Epstein of the University of Pennsylvania finds evidence of a new way of considering how the brain processes and recognizes a person's surroundings, according to a paper published in the latest issue of Nature Neuroscience.

For the study, MacEvoy and Epstein used functional (fMRI) to help them identify how the brain figures out where it is in the world (scene recognition). Study participants had their brains scanned while they looked at photos of four types of scenes: kitchens, bathrooms, intersections and playgrounds. Separately, the researchers took while the subjects looked at photos of individual objects particular to those scenes (e.g., refrigerators, bathtubs, cars, and slides).

MacEvoy and Epstein found that they could use the brain patterns produced by objects as keys to decipher the produced by scenes, and could "read out" what type of scene a participant was seeing at a given point in time. Neuroscientists typically link the brain area involved, known as the lateral occipital complex, to object recognition.

"While previous research on scene recognition has emphasized the role of the three-dimensional layout of scenes in this process, our results suggest a separate system that utilizes information about the objects in scenes to piece together where we are. While that's a strategy that many of us think we might use, here we have evidence of a brain area that could be responsible for it," explained MacEvoy, an assistant professor in the Boston College Psychology Department and principal investigator of the department's Vision and Cognition Lab, which uses fMRI combined with behavioral methods to understand the neuroscience of and cognition. "The existence of a second route for scene processing could be helpful in the development of treatment strategies for patients with brain-injuries that impact their ability to recognize where they are, which can be severely debilitating."

More information: www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v… nt/full/nn.2903.html

Related Stories

How the brain copes with shifty eyeballs

Apr 18, 2007

Neurobiologists have pinpointed brain regions critical to one of the brain’s more remarkable feats—piecing together a continuous view of the world by integrating snippets of visual input from constantly moving eyes. Since ...

New study locates the source of key brain function

Jun 01, 2011

Scientists at the University of Southern California have pinned down the region of the brain responsible for a key survival trait: our ability to comprehend a scene—even one never previously encountered—in a fraction ...

Out of sight, out of mind? Not really

Aug 23, 2005

By playing a trick on the brain, neuroscientists at MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research have discovered one way that humans naturally recognize objects.

Recommended for you

New learning mechanism for individual nerve cells

4 hours ago

The traditional view is that learning is based on the strengthening or weakening of the contacts between the nerve cells in the brain. However, this has been challenged by new research findings from Lund University in Sweden. ...

USC memory scientist Richard Thompson dies at 84

20 hours ago

Richard F. Thompson, the University of Southern California neuroscientist whose experiments with rabbits led to breakthrough discoveries on how memories are physically stored in the brain, has died. He was 84.

Modeling shockwaves through the brain

21 hours ago

Since the start of the military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 300,000 soldiers have returned to the United States with traumatic brain injury caused by exposure to bomb blasts—and in particular, ...

User comments