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Occipital-temporal cortical tuning to semantic and affective features of natural images predicts associated behavioral responses

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Nat Commun. 2024 Jul 9;15(1):5531. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-49073-8.

ABSTRACT

In everyday life, people need to respond appropriately to many types of emotional stimuli. Here, we investigate whether human occipital-temporal cortex (OTC) shows co-representation of the semantic category and affective content of visual stimuli. We also explore whether OTC transformation of semantic and affective features extracts information of value for guiding behavior. Participants viewed 1620 emotional natural images while functional magnetic resonance imaging data were acquired. Using voxel-wise modeling we show widespread tuning to semantic and affective image features across OTC. The top three principal components underlying OTC voxel-wise responses to image features encoded stimulus animacy, stimulus arousal and interactions of animacy with stimulus valence and arousal. At low to moderate dimensionality, OTC tuning patterns predicted behavioral responses linked to each image better than regressors directly based on image features. This is consistent with OTC representing stimulus semantic category and affective content in a manner suited to guiding behavior.

PMID:38982092 | DOI:10.1038/s41467-024-49073-8

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