Action Categories in Lateral Occipitotemporal Cortex Are Organized Along Sociality and Transitivity

Moritz F Wurm, Alfonso Caramazza, Angelika Lingnau

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How neural specificity for distinct conceptual knowledge categories arises is central for understanding the organization of semantic memory in the human brain. While there is a large body of research on the neural processing of distinct object categories, the organization of action categories remains largely unknown. In particular, it is unknown if different action categories follow a specific topographical organization on the cortical surface, analogously to the category-specific organization of object knowledge. Here, we tested whether the neural representation of action knowledge is organized in terms of non-social vs. social and object-unrelated vs. object-related actions (respectively, sociality and transitivity, hereafter). We hypothesized a major distinction of sociality and transitivity along dorsal and ventral lateral occipitotemporal cortex (LOTC), respectively. Using fMRI-based multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA), we identified neural representations of action information associated with sociality and transitivity in bilateral LOTC. Representational similarity analysis (RSA) revealed a dissociation between dorsal and ventral LOTC: We found that action representations in dorsal LOTC are segregated along features of sociality whereas action representations in ventral LOTC are segregated along features of transitivity. In addition, representations of sociality and transitivity features were found more anteriorly in LOTC than representations of specific subtypes of actions suggesting a posterior-anterior gradient from concrete to abstract action features. These findings elucidate how the neural representations of perceptually and conceptually diverse actions are organized in distinct subsystems in the LOTC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)562-575
Number of pages14
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number3
Early online date2 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2017

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