Precisely characterizing mental representations of visual experiences requires careful control of experimental stimuli. Recent work leveraging such stimulus control in continuous report paradigms have led to important insights; however, these findings are constrained to simple visual properties like colour and line orientation. There remains a critical methodological barrier to characterizing perceptual and mnemonic representations of realistic visual experiences. Here, we introduce a novel method to systematically control visual properties of natural scene stimuli. Using generative adversarial networks (GAN), a state-of-art deep learning technique for creating highly realistic synthetic images, we generated scene wheels in which continuously changing visual properties smoothly transition between meaningful realistic scenes. To validate the efficacy of scene wheels, we conducted a memory experiment in which participants reconstructed to-be-remembered scenes from the scene wheels. Reconstruction errors for these scenes resemble error distributions observed in prior studies using simple stimulus properties. Importantly, memory precision varied systematically with scene wheel radius. These findings suggest our novel approach offers a window into the mental representations of naturalistic visual experiences.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience