Cortical networks of dynamic scene category representation in the human brain

Cortex. 2021 Oct;143:127-147. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2021.07.008. Epub 2021 Jul 24.


Humans have an impressive ability to rapidly process global information in natural scenes to infer their category. Yet, it remains unclear whether and how scene categories observed dynamically in the natural world are represented in cerebral cortex beyond few canonical scene-selective areas. To address this question, here we examined the representation of dynamic visual scenes by recording whole-brain blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) responses while subjects viewed natural movies. We fit voxelwise encoding models to estimate tuning for scene categories that reflect statistical ensembles of objects and actions in the natural world. We find that this scene-category model explains a significant portion of the response variance broadly across cerebral cortex. Cluster analysis of scene-category tuning profiles across cortex reveals nine spatially-segregated networks of brain regions consistently across subjects. These networks show heterogeneous tuning for a diverse set of dynamic scene categories related to navigation, human activity, social interaction, civilization, natural environment, non-human animals, motion-energy, and texture, suggesting that the organization of scene category representation is quite complex.

Keywords: Cluster analysis; Dynamic scene category representation; Voxelwise encoding model; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Perception