Dr. William Hodos NACS Seminar: Dr. Jack Gallant

The distributed conceptual network in the human brain

Dr. Jack Gallant

Human behavior is based on a complex interaction between perception, stored knowledge, and continuous evaluation of the world relative to plans and goals. Even seemingly simple tasks such as watching a movie or listening to a story involve a range of different perceptual and cognitive processes whose underlying circuitry is broadly distributed across the brain. One important aspect of this system—the representation of conceptual knowledge in the brain—has been an intense topic of research in cognitive neuroscience for the past 40 years. A recent line of neuroimaging research from my lab has produced highly detailed, high-dimensional functional maps of modal and amodal (or multimodal) semantic representations in individual participants. Based on these findings, we propose a new Distributed Conceptual Network (DCN) theory that encompasses previous theories and accounts for recent data. The DCN theory holds that conceptual representations in the human brain are distributed across multiple modal sensory networks and (at least) one distributed amodal (or multimodal) conceptual network. Information from the modal sensory networks interfaces with the amodal network through a set of parallel semantically-selective channels. The amodal network is also influenced by information stored in long-term memory, which enters the network via the ATL. Finally, executive functions such as selective attention modulate conceptual representations depending on current behavioral goals and plans. We propose that the distributed conceptual system may be the scaffold for conscious experience and working memory, and that it subserves many diverse cognitive functions.

Dr. Jack Gallant is a Professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. William Hodos NACS Seminars are free and open to the public.