Decoding multiple sound categories in the human temporal cortex using high resolution fMRI

Fengqing Zhang, Ji Ping Wang, Jieun Kim, Todd Parrish, Patrick C.M. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Perception of sound categories is an important aspect of auditory perception. The extent to which the brain's representation of sound categories is encoded in specialized subregions or distributed across the auditory cortex remains unclear. Recent studies using multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) of brain activations have provided important insights into how the brain decodes perceptual information. In the large existing literature on brain decoding using MVPA methods, relatively few studies have been conducted onmulti-class categorization in the auditory domain. Here, we investigated the representation and processing of auditory categories within the human temporal cortex using high resolution fMRI and MVPAmethods. More importantly, we considered decoding multiple sound categories simultaneously through multi-class support vector machine-recursive feature elimination (MSVM-RFE) as our MVPA tool. Results show that for all classifications the model MSVM-RFE was able to learn the functional relation between the multiple sound categories and the corresponding evoked spatial patterns and classify the unlabeled sound-evoked patterns significantly above chance. This indicates the feasibility of decodingmultiple sound categories not only within but across subjects. However, the across-subject variation affects classification performance more than the within-subject variation, as the across-subject analysis has significantly lower classification accuracies. Sound category-selective brain maps were identified based on multi-class classification and revealed distributed patterns of brain activity in the superior temporal gyrus and themiddle temporal gyrus. This is in accordancewith previous studies, indicating that information in the spatially distributed patternsmay reflect a more abstract perceptual level of representation of sound categories. Further, we show that the across-subject classification performance can be significantly improved by averaging the fMRI images over items, because the irrelevant variations between different items of the same sound category are reduced and in turn the proportion of signals relevant to sound categorization increases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0117303
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 18 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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