Categorical effect studied through fMRI in color perception

Koç, Şeyma
It is widely accepted that color is perceived categorically. Categorical perception of color can be defined as the tendency to discriminate colors that are from different categories easier, quicker and more accurately than colors that are from the same category. The present study investigated whether brain activity patterns verifies the concept of categorical color perception, an instantiation of top-down influences on low-level perception. Participants performed a color discrimination task on color pairs. Three categories of color pairs are defined in the green-blue region as follows. One of the pairs was specified as cross-category pair by choosing one color from green side of the green-blue boundary and the other color from blue side. The other two pairs were featured as within-category pairs by choosing two shades of green for within-green pair and two shades of blue for within-blue pair. Crucially, the pairs varied only in hue dimension and the physical distance between each of three pairs was set to 10 degrees in CIE LCh space. Pairs on the screen are displayed adjacently or with gaps in between, to further investigate the effect of space in color discrimination. Correct responses, reaction times and fMRI BOLD signals are recorded. Behavioral findings yielded a decrementing pattern from green to blue region challenging the prediction of categorical perception argument that performance is better at green-blue boundary than both within green and blue regions. Behavioral findings also indicated that adjacent display of colors facilitated color discrimination when compared to display of colors with spatial gaps. Brain activity patterns indicated that separate neural processes might underlie these distinct behavioral differences. Although standardized with respect to the color metric, the three categories of our experiment might have involved differences with respect to difficulty levels and memory requirements. Brain activity differences reported in the within-green condition versus cross-category condition are focused on Frontal Eye Fields and Fusiform Gyrus, which is seem to be modulated by Frontal Eye Field activity; increased activation in these regions is related to enhanced visual performance and higher scores, which is consistent with significantly better performance in within-green discrimination than cross-category discrimination. For the same contrast, Parahippocampal Gyrus and Precuneus activations suggest better visual recall and behavioral improvement due to more efficient maintenance in spatial working memory for within-green discrimination than cross-category discrimination. Brain activity differences reported in the within-blue condition versus cross-category condition is focused on Superior Temporal Gyrus, which is involved in color discrimination having the role of color memory. When within-green and within-blue conditions are compared, there was differential activation in the Fusiform Gyrus, and this is the only brain activity which might be attributed to a categorical effect. This comparison also yielded activity in Medial Frontal and Superior Frontal regions concerning more confident perceptual decisions and improved performance on within-green discrimination than within-blue discrimination. In addition, spatial separation of stimuli entailed more cognitive resources to color discrimination than adjacent stimuli as suggested by Cuneus and Lingual Gyrus activations. Overall, to the best of our knowledge our study is the first to investigate the neural framework for color perception, which revealed that color perception might involve several complex sub-processes that activate memory and attention.


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Citation Formats
Ş. Koç, “Categorical effect studied through fMRI in color perception,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2012.