Representational dynamics of object vision: the first 1000 ms

Thomas Carlson*, David A. Tovar, Arjen Alink, Nikolaus Kriegeskorte

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    216 Citations (Scopus)


    Human object recognition is remarkably efficient. In recent years, significant advancements have been made in our understanding of how the brain represents visual objects and organizes them into categories. Recent studies using pattern analyses methods have characterized a representational space of objects in human and primate inferior temporal cortex in which object exemplars are discriminable and cluster according to category (e.g., faces and bodies). In the present study we examined how category structure in object representations emerges in the first 1000 ms of visual processing. In the study, participants viewed 24 object exemplars with a planned categorical structure comprised of four levels ranging from highly specific (individual exemplars) to highly abstract (animate vs. inanimate), while their brain activity was recorded with magnetoencephalography (MEG). We used a sliding time window decoding approach to decode the exemplar and the exemplar's category that participants were viewing on a moment-to-moment basis. We found exemplar and category membership could be decoded from the neuromagnetic recordings shortly after stimulus onset (,100 ms) with peak decodability following thereafter. Latencies for peak decodability varied systematically with the level of category abstraction with more abstract categories emerging later, indicating that the brain hierarchically constructs category representations. In addition, we examined the stationarity of patterns of activity in the brain that encode object category information and show these patterns vary over time, suggesting the brain might use flexible time varying codes to represent visual object categories.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1
    Pages (from-to)1-19
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Vision
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • Brain decoding
    • Categorization
    • Magnetoencephalography
    • Object recognition
    • Pattern-information analysis


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