Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Giacomo Aldegheri (Donders Series 617)

13 September 2023

Promotor:  Prof. dr. W.P. Medendorp
Co-promotors:  Dr. M.V. Peelen and Dr. S. Gayet

One Little World: Investigating context-driven object transformations in brain and behavior

As we move through our environment, our viewpoint on the objects in a scene changes continuously, but this change is consistent across the objects and the background of the scene. Scene context thus provides powerful cues to predict how objects will look from a new viewpoint, even when objects are temporarily invisible, for example due to occlusion. In this thesis, we investigated human observers’ ability to dynamically predict the appearance of objects based on the surrounding scene. In a series of behavioral experiments, we found evidence that participants automatically predict the appearance of 3D objects from novel viewpoints based on scene context. In two fMRI studies, we found that scene-driven predictions are reflected in a representation of the upcoming object’s appearance in visual cortex, even in the absence of visual input. Together, these results indicate that scene context informs predictions of object transformations, and that these predictions shape object representations in visual cortex. These results point to a role of mental transformations abilities in supporting predictions during everyday vision.