Friday, November 16, 2007

News Flash: Perceived animacy does not predict neural activity on the posterior STS

"Visual Perception and Neural Correlates of Novel 'Biological Motion' "
John Pyles, Javier Garcia, Don Hoffman & Emily Grossman
Published in Vision Research, September 2007 issue

The human superior temporal sulcus (STS) has been identified as involved in a number of abilities, including visual perception, auditory scene analysis, multisensory integration, attention, and the understanding of social events. To put it mildly, this is a relatively large and complex region of the brain.

Perceived animacy and perception of biological motion (such as in point-light animations) have both been identified as recruiting neural activity on the posterior extent of the STS. Virtually all studies in both of these areas have used human actions as their stimuli, which confounds visual analysis of the actor with portrayed animacy (virtually guaranteed from these sequences).

John Pyles led this study that measures neural activity using an novel stimulus set. These 'Creatures' are artificially evolved animations that have unusual body structures and gait styles, but nonetheless are readily perceived as animate beings when viewed in locomotion. Using these stimuli, John showed that the posterior STS is not activated as strongly by the Creatures as it is for human actions, suggesting that animacy alone does not predict neural activity in this region.

In contrast to the STS, a number of ventral temporal brain areas responded quite strongly for these novel 'Creatures'. John is now investigating how these brain structures support the recognition of these stimuli.

For more information, see the paper here.

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