Article abstract


Nature Neuroscience 8, 679 - 685 (2005)
Published online: 24 April 2005 | doi:10.1038/nn1444

Decoding the visual and subjective contents of the human brain

Yukiyasu Kamitani1 & Frank Tong2,3


The potential for human neuroimaging to read out the detailed contents of a person's mental state has yet to be fully explored. We investigated whether the perception of edge orientation, a fundamental visual feature, can be decoded from human brain activity measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Using statistical algorithms to classify brain states, we found that ensemble fMRI signals in early visual areas could reliably predict on individual trials which of eight stimulus orientations the subject was seeing. Moreover, when subjects had to attend to one of two overlapping orthogonal gratings, feature-based attention strongly biased ensemble activity toward the attended orientation. These results demonstrate that fMRI activity patterns in early visual areas, including primary visual cortex (V1), contain detailed orientation information that can reliably predict subjective perception. Our approach provides a framework for the readout of fine-tuned representations in the human brain and their subjective contents.

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  1. ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories, 2-2-2 Hikaridai, Keihanna Science City, Kyoto 619-0288, Japan.
  2. Psychology Department, Princeton University, Green Hall, Princeton, New Jersey, 08544, USA.
  3. Present address: Psychology Department, Vanderbilt University, 301 Wilson Hall, 111 21st Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee 37203, USA.

Correspondence to: Yukiyasu Kamitani1 e-mail: kmtn@atr.jp



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