Reconstructing meaning from bits of information

Kivisaari Sasa L.,*, van Vliet Marijn, Hultén Annika, Lindh-Knuutila Tiina, Faisal Ali, Salmelin Riitta

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Aug 29, 2018
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Received Date: 16th August 2018

We can easily identify a dog merely by the sound of barking or an orange by its citrus scent. In this work, we study the neural underpinnings of how the brain combines bits of information into meaningful object representations. Modern theories of semantics posit that the meaning of words can be decomposed into a unique combination of individual semantic features (e.g., “barks”, “has citrus scent”). Here, participants received clues of individual objects in form of three isolated semantic features, given as verbal descriptions. We used machine-learning-based neural decoding to learn a mapping between individual semantic features and BOLD activation patterns. We discovered that the recorded brain patterns were best decoded using a combination of not only the three semantic features that were presented as clues, but a far richer set of semantic features typically linked to the target object. We conclude that our experimental protocol allowed us to observe how fragmented information is combined into a complete semantic representation of an object and suggest neuroanatomical underpinnings for this process.

Read in full at bioRxiv.

This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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