Decoding the Semantic Content of Natural Movies from Human Brain Activity

Front Syst Neurosci. 2016 Oct 7;10:81. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2016.00081. eCollection 2016.


One crucial test for any quantitative model of the brain is to show that the model can be used to accurately decode information from evoked brain activity. Several recent neuroimaging studies have decoded the structure or semantic content of static visual images from human brain activity. Here we present a decoding algorithm that makes it possible to decode detailed information about the object and action categories present in natural movies from human brain activity signals measured by functional MRI. Decoding is accomplished using a hierarchical logistic regression (HLR) model that is based on labels that were manually assigned from the WordNet semantic taxonomy. This model makes it possible to simultaneously decode information about both specific and general categories, while respecting the relationships between them. Our results show that we can decode the presence of many object and action categories from averaged blood-oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) responses with a high degree of accuracy (area under the ROC curve > 0.9). Furthermore, we used this framework to test whether semantic relationships defined in the WordNet taxonomy are represented the same way in the human brain. This analysis showed that hierarchical relationships between general categories and atypical examples, such as organism and plant, did not seem to be reflected in representations measured by BOLD fMRI.

Keywords: WordNet; decoding; fMRI; natural images; structured output.