Neural representations underlying mental imagery as unveiled by representation similarity analysis

Maddalena Boccia, Valentina Sulpizio, Federica Bencivenga, Cecilia Guariglia, Gaspare Galati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is commonly acknowledged that visual imagery and perception rely on the same content-dependent brain areas in the high-level visual cortex (HVC). However, the way in which our brain processes and organizes previous acquired knowledge to allow the generation of mental images is still a matter of debate. Here, we performed a representation similarity analysis of three previous fMRI experiments conducted in our laboratory to characterize the neural representation underlying imagery and perception of objects, buildings and faces and to disclose possible dissimilarities in the neural structure of such representations. To this aim, we built representational dissimilarity matrices (RDMs) by computing multivariate distances between the activity patterns associated with each pair of stimuli in the content-dependent areas of the HVC and HC. We found that spatial information is widely coded in the HVC during perception (i.e. RSC, PPA and OPA) and imagery (OPA and PPA). Also, visual information seems to be coded in both preferred and non-preferred regions of the HVC, supporting a distributed view of encoding. Overall, the present results shed light upon the spatial coding of imagined and perceived exemplars in the HVC.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • fMRI
  • Multivariate pattern analysis
  • Perception
  • Representation similarity analysis
  • Visual mental images

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Histology


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