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Published on June 17, 2019 | Updated on June 17, 2019

Etienne Abassi

June 26, 2019


Seeing relations: Selectivity for a two-body shape in the human visual-object perception cortex

The ability to recognize social stimuli and, critically, the relationship linking them, is a crucial skill to survive in a social environment. Where are those socially relevant relations captured in the brain? Is visual perception tuned to relations between social agents as much as it is tuned to social agents? We asked whether, besides the increase sensitivity to social entities, the visual object perception system effectively registers the spatial relations between those entities, distinguishing between socially relevant and socially non-relevant multiple-body configurations. To answer this question, we performed an fMRI experiment in which healthy subjects viewed pairs of two human bodies arranged as if interacting or non-interacting together, while recording brain activity. We found converging outcomes favoring the hypothesis of a neural tuning of our visual system to socially relevant spatial relations between social entities in body-selective regions (Extrastriate Body Area) within the Lateral Occipital Cortex.