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

September 13, 2011
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/vaop/ncurrent/full/nn.2903.html

Related Stories

New study locates the source of key brain function

June 1, 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 ...

Recommended for you

Surprising similarity in fly and mouse motion vision

July 29, 2015

At first glance, the eyes of mammals and those of insects do not seem to have much in common. However, a comparison of the neural circuits for detecting motion shows surprising parallels between flies and mice. Scientists ...

Research grasps how the brain plans gripping motion

July 28, 2015

With the results of a new study, neuroscientists have a firmer grasp on the way the brain formulates commands for the hand to grip an object. The advance could lead to improvements in future brain-computer interfaces that ...

New research rethinks how we grab and hold onto objects

July 28, 2015

It's been a long day. You open your fridge and grab a nice, cold beer. A pretty simple task, right? Wrong. While you're debating between an IPA and a lager, your nervous system is calculating a complex problem: how hard to ...

It don't mean a thing if the brain ain't got that swing

July 27, 2015

Like Duke Ellington's 1931 jazz standard, the human brain improvises while its rhythm section keeps up a steady beat. But when it comes to taking on intellectually challenging tasks, groups of neurons tune in to one another ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.