August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
Using fMRI to study the neural basis of violation-of-expectation
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Shari Liu
    Johns Hopkins University
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Kirsten Lydic
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Rebecca Saxe
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  DARPA CW3013552, NIH F32HD103363
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 4925. doi:
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      Shari Liu, Kirsten Lydic, Rebecca Saxe; Using fMRI to study the neural basis of violation-of-expectation. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):4925.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Why do babies look longer when objects float in midair, or people behave inefficiently (Carey; 2009; Spelke 2022) during violation-of-expectation (VOE) studies? Here we test two non-mutually exclusive hypotheses. One hypothesis is that VOE is supported (H1) by domain-general processes, like visual prediction error and endogenous attention. A second hypothesis is that VOE is supported (H2) by domain-specific prediction error over psychological and physical expectations. These hypotheses predict responses in distinct neural regions. Whereas the domain-general hypothesis predicts greater responses to unexpected than expected events in visual and multiple demand regions, that generalize across domains, the domain-specific hypothesis predicts greater responses to unexpected events in different regions depending on the domain (e.g. supramarginal gyrus for physics, superior temporal sulcus for psychology; Deen et al., 2015; Fischer et al., 2016). To test both hypotheses, we scanned 17 adults using fMRI while they watched videos of agents and objects, adapted from infant behavioral research. Exploratory univariate fROI analyses showed that primary visual cortices responded equally to unexpected and expected events, suggesting that VOE does not evoke low-level visual prediction error. Regions in the multiple demand network (Fedorenko et al., 2013), like inferior frontal cortex and anterior insula, responded more to unexpected events across domains, though with smaller effect sizes, providing some support for domain-general endogenously driven attention. Lastly, supramarginal gyrus, a region involved in physical reasoning, responded more to unexpected than expected physical events (and not psychological events), providing evidence for domain-specific prediction error. In contrast, superior temporal sulcus, a region involved in social perception, responded more to unexpected than expected events from both domains, though with greater responses to psychological events overall. In sum, in adult brains, both domain-specific and domain-general regions encode violation-of-expectation involving agents and objects, paving the way towards future work in human infants.


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