Using Convolutional Neural Networks to measure the contribution of visual features to the representation of object animacy in the brain
A mediolateral gradation in neural responses for images spanning animals to artificial objects is observed in the ventral temporal cortex (VTC). Which information streams drive this organ- isation is an ongoing debate. Recently, in Proklova et al. (2016), the visual shape and category (“animacy”) dimensions in a set of stimuli were dissociated using a behavioural measure of visual feature information. fMRI responses revealed a neural cluster (extra-visual animacy cluster - xVAC) which encoded category information unexplained by visual feature information, sug- gesting extra-visual contributions to the organisation in the ventral visual stream. We reassess these findings using Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) as models for the ventral visual stream. The visual features developed in the CNN layers can categorise the shape-matched stimuli from Proklova et al. (2016) in contrast to the behavioural measures used in the study. The category organisations in xVAC and VTC are explained to a large degree by the CNN visual feature differences, casting doubt over the suggestion that visual feature differences can- not account for the animacy organisation. To inform the debate further, we designed a set of stimuli with animal images to dissociate the animacy organisation driven by the CNN visual features from the degree of familiarity and agency (thoughtfulness and feelings). Preliminary results from a new fMRI experiment designed to understand the contribution of these non-visual features are presented.