Seeing versus knowing: the temporal dynamics of real and implied colour processing in the human brain

Lina Teichmann*, Tijl Grootswagers, Thomas A. Carlson, Anina N. Rich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Colour is a defining feature of many objects, playing a crucial role in our ability to rapidly recognise things in the world around us and make categorical distinctions. For example, colour is a useful cue when distinguishing lemons from limes or blackberries from raspberries. That means our representation of many objects includes key colour-related information. The question addressed here is whether the neural representation activated by knowing that something is red is the same as that activated when we actually see something red, particularly in regard to timing. We addressed this question using neural timeseries (magnetoencephalography, MEG) data to contrast real colour perception and implied object colour activation. We applied multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) to analyse the brain activation patterns evoked by colour accessed via real colour perception and implied colour activation. Applying MVPA to MEG data allows us here to focus on the temporal dynamics of these processes. Male and female human participants (N = 18) viewed isoluminant red and green shapes and grey-scale, luminance-matched pictures of fruits and vegetables that are red (e.g., tomato) or green (e.g., kiwifruit) in nature. We show that the brain activation pattern evoked by real colour perception is similar to implied colour activation, but that this pattern is instantiated at a later time. These results suggest that a common colour representation can be triggered by activating object representations from memory and perceiving colours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-381
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2019


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