Research Article

Intersubject Synchronization of Cortical Activity During Natural Vision

Science  12 Mar 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5664, pp. 1634-1640
DOI: 10.1126/science.1089506

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Abstract

To what extent do all brains work alike during natural conditions? We explored this question by letting five subjects freely view half an hour of a popular movie while undergoing functional brain imaging. Applying an unbiased analysis in which spatiotemporal activity patterns in one brain were used to “model” activity in another brain, we found a striking level of voxel-by-voxel synchronization between individuals, not only in primary and secondary visual and auditory areas but also in association cortices. The results reveal a surprising tendency of individual brains to “tick collectively” during natural vision. The intersubject synchronization consisted of a widespread cortical activation pattern correlated with emotionally arousing scenes and regionally selective components. The characteristics of these activations were revealed with the use of an open-ended “reverse-correlation” approach, which inverts the conventional analysis by letting the brain signals themselves “pick up” the optimal stimuli for each specialized cortical area.

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