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Brain Res Bull. 2009 Jun 30;79(5):271-80. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2009.03.007. Epub 2009 Apr 1.

Neural representation of animacy in the early visual areas: a functional MRI study.

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Department of Physiological Sciences, The Graduate University for Advanced Studies (Sokendai), Kanagawa, Japan.


Animacy helps to identify objects as living entities. To test the hypothesis that the perception of animacy via visual motion cues is represented in the same ventral visual pathways associated with living object identification through static visual information processing, 28 normal volunteers underwent functional MRI whilst tracking the movements of a self-propelling object. The target movement was held constant between conditions, whilst the animacy was externally manipulated by the presence of "chasers", from which the target was perceived to be escaping, and by "obstacles", which were static geometric objects with which the target avoided collision. The perception of target animacy was most powerfully induced by chasers, and a proximity effect was more prominently produced by obstacles. Animacy as induced by a chaser was associated with effects in the bilateral occipital poles (OPs) and the left inferior temporal gyrus to the lateral occipital complex (LOC). The LOC showed a stronger animacy effect, relative to the proximity effect, than the OPs. The effective connectivity between the LOC and the OPs was bi-directionally enhanced by the chasers. These findings suggest that both the LOC and the OPs play important roles in the identification of animated entities through the integration of information about the relationships between objects encoded in retinotopic coordinates.

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