The representation of object concepts in the brain

Abstract

Evidence from functional neuroimaging of the human brain indicates that information about salient properties of an object¿such as what it looks like, how it moves, and how it is used¿is stored in sensory and motor systems active when that information was acquired. As a result, object concepts belonging to different categories like animals and tools are represented in partially distinct, sensory- and motor property-based neural networks. This suggests that object concepts are not explicitly represented, but rather emerge from weighted activity within property-based brain regions. However, some property-based regions seem to show a categorical organization, thus providing evidence consistent with category-based, domain-specific formulations as well.Acronyms and DefinitionsBiological motion: motion of animate agents characterized by highly flexible, fully articulated motion vectors, in contrast to the rigid, unarticulated motion vectors associated with most tools.Category-specific disorder: a relatively greater impairment in retrieving information about members of one superordinate object category (e.g., animals) as compared with other categories following brain injury or diseaseIPS: intraparietal sulcusLO: lateral occipital cortexObject concept: memory representations of a class or category of objects. Necessary for numerous cognitive functions including identifying an object as a member of a specific category and drawing inferences about object propertiespMTG: posterior middle temporal gyruspSTS: posterior superior temporal sulcusRepetition suppression: decreased neural response associated with repeated presentation of an identical, or a semantically/conceptually related, stimulusSD: semantic dementiaSemantic memory: a large division of long-term memory containing knowledge about the world including facts, ideas, beliefs, and conceptsSemantic priming: a short-lasting facilitation in processing a stimulus due to the prior presentation of a semantically related stimulusTMS: transcranial magnetic stimulationVPMC: ventral premotor cortex.

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Alex Martin
University College London

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