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Journal Article

Neural mechanisms of vibrotactile categorization


Deco,  Gustavo
Department of Information and Communication Technologies, University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain;
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain;
School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia;

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Malone, P. S., Eberhardt, S. P., Wimmer, K., Sprouse, C., Klein, R., Glomb, K., et al. (2019). Neural mechanisms of vibrotactile categorization. Human Brain Mapping, 40(10), 3078-3090. doi:10.1002/hbm.24581.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-543D-B
The grouping of sensory stimuli into categories is fundamental to cognition. Previous research in the visual and auditory systems supports a two‐stage processing hierarchy that underlies perceptual categorization: (a) a “bottom‐up” perceptual stage in sensory cortices where neurons show selectivity for stimulus features and (b) a “top‐down” second stage in higher level cortical areas that categorizes the stimulus‐selective input from the first stage. In order to test the hypothesis that the two‐stage model applies to the somatosensory system, 14 human participants were trained to categorize vibrotactile stimuli presented to their right forearm. Then, during an fMRI scan, participants actively categorized the stimuli. Representational similarity analysis revealed stimulus selectivity in areas including the left precentral and postcentral gyri, the supramarginal gyrus, and the posterior middle temporal gyrus. Crucially, we identified a single category‐selective region in the left ventral precentral gyrus. Furthermore, an estimation of directed functional connectivity delivered evidence for robust top‐down connectivity from the second to first stage. These results support the validity of the two‐stage model of perceptual categorization for the somatosensory system, suggesting common computational principles and a unified theory of perceptual categorization across the visual, auditory, and somatosensory systems.