The Human-Monkey Connection

More proof that we are actually primates.

Numerous previous research has shown that the inferior temporal (IT) cortex is involved in higher order processing of visual information, and is associated with the representation of the large scale features of compelx objects. Discrete regions of this region of the brain are known to respond selectively to different categories of objects – one particularly well characterized region of the IT is the fusiform face area, so named because it responds to faces but not to other categories of visual stimuli.

The new study, which was led by Nikolaus Kriegeskorte of the Laboratory for Brain and Cognition at the National Institutes for Mental Health, involved presenting macaque monkeys and humans with the same set of real-world images, while measuring the response pattern in the IT. The same 92 isolated images were presented in quick succession in a randomized order. The images were subdivided into a number of categories, including the faces and bodies of humans and animals and natural and artificial inanimate objects. In the humans, neuronal activity was measured using high resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), while in the monkeys, the activity of some 700 single IT neurons was recorded using intracellular electrodes.

This analysis revealed several important similarities in the responses of the two species. First, two objects represented differently in the human IT tended also to be represented differently in the monkey IT, and vice versa. This dissimilarity in the way two objects are represented was usually largest when one of the presented objects was an animate object and the other an inanimate one, and smaller when the objects were either both animate or inanimate. Third, the dissimilarity was particularly small when the response to both human and animal faces was measured.


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