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Poster F124

Comparative fMRI reveals differences in the functional specializations of the visual cortex for animacy in dogs and humans

Poster Session F - Tuesday, April 16, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Dr Attila Andics1 (, Dr Raul Hernandez-Perez1, Eszter Borbala Farkas1, Dr Laura V. Cuaya1, Eduardo Rojas-Hortelano2, Dr Marta Gacsi1,3; 1Department of Ethology, Eotvos Lorand University, Hungary, 2National Autonomous University of Mexico, 3HUN-RUN-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group

The animate-inanimate category distinction is one of the general organizing principles in the primate high-level visual cortex. Much less is known about the visual cortical representations of animacy in non-primate mammals, for which the relative importance of vision among sensory modalities have not increased as dramatically during evolution as for certain primates, including humans. Conducting the same fMRI experiment with dogs (N=15) and humans (N=13), we investigated how animacy structures neural responses in the visually responsive cortex of the two species. All conditions (videos displaying dogs, humans, cats or cars in natural settings) were matched for low-level visual features. Univariate analyses identified in both species animate-sensitive bilateral occipital and temporal regions, separable from functionally determined early visual areas. More animate-sensitive voxels responded maximally to conspecific than heterospecific stimuli in both dogs and humans. Dog-, human- and cat-sensitive regions overlapped less in dog than in human brains. Multivariate tests revealed categorical representations in both species for dog, human and cat stimuli as well, and these overlapped less in dogs than in humans. The regions exhibiting these categorical representations for animate conditions largely overlapped with univariate animacy-sensitive clusters. Together, these findings that the animate-inanimate distinction is important not only in primate, but more generally in mammalian visual perception. But a key species difference, that neural representations for animate stimuli are less concentrated in dogs than in humans suggests that certain underlying organizing principles that support the visual perception of animacy in primates may not play a similarly important role in all mammals.

Topic Area: PERCEPTION & ACTION: Vision


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April 13–16  |  2024