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Mapping the brain pathways of visual memorability

For nearly a decade, a team of researchers on the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has been attempting to determine why certain images persist in an individual's mind while many others fade. To do that, they got down to map the spatiotemporal dynamics of the brain that play a job in recognizing a visible image. And now, for the primary time, scientists harnessed the combined strengths of magnetoencephalography (MEG), which captures the timing of brain activity, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which identifies lively brain regions, to pinpoint when and where the brain processes processes in an unforgettable way Picture.

Your open access study, published this month in , used 78 pairs of images that corresponded to the identical concept but differed of their memorability scores – one was very memorable and the opposite was easy to forget. These images were shown to fifteen subjects, including scenes of skateboarding, animals in various environments, on a regular basis objects akin to cups and chairs, natural landscapes akin to forests and beaches, urban scenes of streets and buildings, and faces with different expressions. They found that a more distributed network of brain regions than previously thought is actively involved within the encoding and memory processes that underlie memorability.

“People are likely to remember some images higher than others, even in the event that they are conceptually similar, akin to different scenes of an individual skateboarding,” says Benjamin Lahner, MIT doctoral student in electrical engineering and computer science, CSAIL partner and First writer of the book Study. “We have identified a brain signature of visual memorability that emerges about 300 milliseconds after viewing a picture and includes areas within the ventral occipital cortex and temporal cortex that process information akin to color perception and object recognition. This signature suggests that highly memorable images trigger stronger and more sustained brain responses, particularly in regions akin to the early visual cortex, which we’ve previously underestimated in memory processing.”

While highly memorable images show a better and more sustained response for about half a second, the response to less memorable images fades quickly. This insight, says Lahner, could redefine our understanding of how memories are created and persist. The team believes this research has potential for future clinical applications, particularly within the early diagnosis and treatment of memory disorders.

The MEG/fMRI fusion method, developed within the laboratory of CSAIL Senior Research Scientist Aude Oliva, cleverly captures the spatial and temporal dynamics of the brain, overcoming the normal limitations of spatial or temporal specificity. The fusion method got somewhat help from its machine learning friend to raised examine and compare brain activity when taking a look at different images. They created a “representation matrix,” which looks like an in depth diagram, showing how similar neural responses are in several brain regions. Using this diagram, they were capable of see the patterns of where and when the brain processes what we see.

Selecting the conceptually similar image pairs with high and low memorability scores was the critical think about gaining these insights into memorability. Lahner explained the technique of aggregating behavioral data to assign memorability scores to pictures, curating a various set of high and low memorability images with balanced representation across different visual categories.

Despite the progress made, the team notes some limitations. While this work can discover brain regions that show significant memorability effects, it cannot elucidate the function of those regions in contributing to raised encoding/retrieval from memory.

“Understanding the neural basis of memorability opens up exciting possibilities for clinical advances, particularly within the early diagnosis and treatment of memory disorders,” says Oliva. “The specific brain signatures we identified for memorability may lead to early biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. This research paves the way in which for novel intervention strategies which might be precisely tailored to the person's neural profile, potentially transforming the therapeutic landscape for memory disorders and significantly improving patient outcomes.”

“These results are exciting because they offer us insights into the processes within the brain that occur between seeing and storing in memory,” says Wilma Bainbridge, an assistant professor of psychology on the University of Chicago, who was not involved within the study. “The researchers here capture a cortical signal that reflects what needs to be remembered and what may be forgotten early on.”

Lahner and Oliva, who can be director of strategic industry engagement on the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, MIT director of the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab and CSAIL principal investigator, join Western University assistant professor Yalda Mohsenzadeh and York University researcher , Caitlin Mullin, on paper. The team receives a Joint Instrumentation Grant from the National Institutes of Health and their work was supported by the Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship through an Office of Naval Research grant, a National Science Foundation award, and a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative award through an Army Research Office- Scholarship funded and the EECS MathWorks Fellowship. Your article is published in.


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