Common or folk knowledge about animals is dominated by three dimensions: (1) level of cognitive complexity or "animacy;" (2) dangerousness or "predacity;" and (3) size. We investigated the neural basis of the perceived dangerousness or aggressiveness of animals, which we refer to more generally as "perception of threat." Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we analyzed neural activity evoked by viewing images of animal categories that spanned the dissociable semantic dimensions of threat and taxonomic class. The results reveal a distributed network for perception of threat extending along the right superior temporal sulcus. We compared neural representational spaces with target representational spaces based on behavioral judgments and a computational model of early vision and found a processing pathway in which perceived threat emerges as a dominant dimension: whereas visual features predominate in early visual cortex and taxonomy in lateral occipital and ventral temporal cortices, these dimensions fall away progressively from posterior to anterior temporal cortices, leaving threat as the dominant explanatory variable. Our results suggest that the perception of threat in the human brain is associated with neural structures that underlie perception and cognition of social actions and intentions, suggesting a broader role for these regions than has been thought previously, one that includes the perception of potential threat from agents independent of their biological class.

How the human brain represents perceived dangerousness or “predacity” of animals

GOBBINI, MARIA IDA;
2016

Abstract

Common or folk knowledge about animals is dominated by three dimensions: (1) level of cognitive complexity or "animacy;" (2) dangerousness or "predacity;" and (3) size. We investigated the neural basis of the perceived dangerousness or aggressiveness of animals, which we refer to more generally as "perception of threat." Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we analyzed neural activity evoked by viewing images of animal categories that spanned the dissociable semantic dimensions of threat and taxonomic class. The results reveal a distributed network for perception of threat extending along the right superior temporal sulcus. We compared neural representational spaces with target representational spaces based on behavioral judgments and a computational model of early vision and found a processing pathway in which perceived threat emerges as a dominant dimension: whereas visual features predominate in early visual cortex and taxonomy in lateral occipital and ventral temporal cortices, these dimensions fall away progressively from posterior to anterior temporal cortices, leaving threat as the dominant explanatory variable. Our results suggest that the perception of threat in the human brain is associated with neural structures that underlie perception and cognition of social actions and intentions, suggesting a broader role for these regions than has been thought previously, one that includes the perception of potential threat from agents independent of their biological class.
Connolly, Ac; Sha, L; Guntupalli, Js; Oosterhof, N; Halchenko, Yo; Nastase, Sa; Visconti di Oleggio Castello, M; Abdi, H; Jobst, Bc; Gobbini, MARIA IDA; Haxby, Jv
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/541502
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