Bring Up the Bodies

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Science  31 Jan 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6170, pp. 462
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6170.462-b

The physiology of face-selective cells in specialized cortical areas has been studied in great detail. We know much less about neurons in brain regions specializing in the visual representation of bodies. Functional MRI studies have identified areas that are activated by body images. Popivanov et al. recorded local field potentials and individual neuronal spikes from such brain scan–defined body-selective patches in the monkey superior temporal sulcus. Local field potential gamma power and neuronal population spikes were enhanced for body, compared to nonbody, images. Averaging responses from a group of individual cells caused category selectivity in the neuronal population. Individual cells exhibited strong within-category selectivity and reacted to only a subset of bodies. A linear support vector machine classifier, trained using the spiking responses to a sample of the images, accurately classified untrained body images. Interestingly, the heterogeneous response properties of the neurons in the body patch allowed accurate classifications of all other classes, even faces or artificial objects. The single units responded selectively to specific body parts even at different orientations. Neurons in this particular body patch thus show selectivity for both body and nonbody images, but with a stronger response to bodies.

J. Neurosci. 34, 95 (2014).

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