Semantic and emotional content of imagined representations in human occipitotemporal cortex.


Mental imagery is a critical cognitive function, clinically important, but poorly understood. When visual objects are perceived, many of their sensory, semantic and emotional properties are represented in occipitotemporal cortex. Visual imagery has been found to activate some of the same brain regions, but it was not known what properties are re-created in these regions during imagery. We therefore examined the representation during imagery for two stimuli in depth, by comparing the pattern of fMRI response to the patterns evoked by the perception of 200 diverse objects chosen to de-correlate their properties. Real-time, adaptive stimulus selection allowed efficient sampling of this broad stimulus space. Our experiments show that occipitotemporal cortex, which encoded sensory, semantic and emotional properties during perception, can robustly represent semantic and emotional properties during imagery, but that these representations depend on the object being imagined and on individual differences in style and reported vividness of imagery.