Sociality and interaction envelope organize visual action representations

Published Date: 
June 12, 2020

Humans observe a wide range of actions in their surroundings. How is the visual cortex organized to process this diverse input? Using functional neuroimaging, we measured brain responses while participants viewed short videos of everyday actions, then probed the structure in these responses using voxel-wise encoding modeling. Responses are well fit by feature spaces that capture the body parts involved in an action and the action's targets (i.e. whether the action was directed at an object, another person, the actor, and space). Clustering analyses reveal five large-scale networks that summarize the voxel tuning: one related to social aspects of an action, and four related to the scale of the interaction envelope, ranging from fine-scale manipulations directed at objects, to large-scale whole-body movements directed at distant locations. We propose that these networks reveal the major representational joints in how actions are processed by visual regions of the brain.