Functionally Specific Cortical Regions in Humans: What Others and Why These?
The last few decades of research on the human brain have revealed a number of cortical regions that conduct very specific functions, from the perception of faces, places, and text to abstract, uniquely human functions like understanding the meaning of a sentence or thinking about what another person is thinking. Other brain regions play a more general role, getting engaged when we perform almost any difficult mental task at all. Each of these regions is present, in approximately the same location, in virtually every normal person.
I like to think of this initial rough sketch of the functional organization of the brain as a diagram of the major components of the human mind, a kind of picture of who we are as perceivers and thinkers. But at the same time this new map is just the barest beginning, revealing a vast landscape of unanswered questions. In this talk I will consider two such questions.
First, what other specialized regions exist in the cortex? I will talk about two different lines of recent work from our lab using data-driven methods to discover novel functional selectivities in auditory and visual cortex. Second, why do we have the selectivities we do? Here we use optimization of artificial neural networks not only as models of how human perception may work inthe brain, but even more excitingly to ask why we have the cortical organization we do.