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Junpeng Lao, Luca Vizioli, Lars Muckli, Roberto Caldara; Decoding culture from the human primary visual cortex. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):1093. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/14.10.1093.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Humans have invented and transmitted distinct symbolic systems (i.e., language and numbers) over the course of evolution. As expected, these marked cultural differences have found subtle specific signatures in the brain. More recently, it has been shown that culture has also the potency to modulate the processing of non-symbolic visual information. Western observers preferably attend to focal objects and show a more efficient processing for local information, whereas Eastern observers display a global attention bias and are better at integrating information in the background. These cultural differences emerge in high-order functional areas, but it remains unclear whether culture also impact on primary visual cortex (V1). To this aim, we recorded fMRI signals in Western and Eastern observers while they were viewing complex real world scenes. We manipulated the nature of the diagnostic information present in the foveal and peripheral vision. The images contained either a focal object within 2째 of visual angle, or depicted scenes with no meaningful information in the foveal area. We mapped individual V1s and extracted multivoxel patterns as a function of visual field eccentricity before entering them into a multivariate classification analysis. Our results revealed that the foveal but not the peripheral area of V1 carries information that can discriminate objects from scenes in Westerners. In contrast, scenes but not objects could be accurately decoded in the region representing peripheral vision in Easterners, with equal classification performance for both visual categories in the foveal area. The human V1 contains specific information about high-order cognitive processes in vision. This particular non-symbolic visual mapping provides an original mean to uncover culture in humans.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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