October 23, 2020

Behavioral correlates of cortical semantic representations modeled by word vectors

The quantitative modeling of semantic representations in the brain plays a key role in understanding the neural basis of semantic processing. Previous studies have demonstrated that word vectors, which were originally developed for use in the field of natural language processing, provide a powerful tool for such quantitative modeling. However, whether semantic representations revealed by the word vector-based models actually capture our perception of semantic information remains unclear, as there has been no study explicitly examining the behavioral correlates of the modeled semantic representations. To address this issue, we compared the semantic structure of nouns and adjectives estimated from word vector-based brain models with that evaluated from human behavior. The brain models were constructed using voxelwise modeling to predict the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) response to natural movies from semantic contents in each movie scene through a word vector space. The semantic dissimilarity of word representations was then evaluated using the brain models. Meanwhile, data on human behavior reflecting the perception of semantic dissimilarity between words were collected in psychological experiments. We found a significant correlation between brain model- and behavior-derived semantic dissimilarities of words. This finding suggests that semantic representations in the brain modeled via word vectors appropriately capture our perception of word meanings.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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