David Plaut

Department of Psychology,
Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, Carnegie Mellon University,
Pittsburgh, USA







Computational models, right and left, faces and words: selected references



Behrmann, M. & Plaut, D. C. (2013). Distributed circuits, not circumscribed centers, mediate visual recognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17, 210-219.
Notes: Increasingly, the neural mechanisms that support visual cognition are being conceptualized as a distributed but integrated system, as opposed to a set of individual, specialized regions that each subserve a particular visual behavior. Consequently, there is an emerging emphasis on characterizing the functional, structural, and computa tional properties of these broad networks. We present a novel theoretical perspective, which elucidates the developmental emergence, computational properties, and vulnerabilities of integrated circuits using face and word recognition as model domains. Additionally, we suggest that, rather than being disparate and independent, these neural circuits are overlapping and subject to the same computational constraints. Specifically, we argue that both word and face recognition rely on fine-grained visual representations but, by virtue of pressure to couple visual and language areas and to keep connection length short, the left hemisphere becomes more finely tuned for word recognition and, consequently, the right hemisphere becomes more finely tuned for face recognition. Thus, both hemispheres ultimately participate in both forms of visual recognition, but their respective contributions are asymmetrically weighted
Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA. Electronic address: behrmann@cmu.edu

Behrmann, M. & Plaut, D. C. (2013). Bilateral Hemispheric Processing of Words and Faces: Evidence from Word Impairments in Prosopagnosia and Face Impairments in Pure Alexia. Cerebral Cortex.
Notes: Considerable research has supported the view that faces and words are subserved by independent neural mechanisms located in the ventral visual cortex in opposite hemispheres. On this view, right hemisphere ventral lesions that impair face recognition (prosopagnosia) should leave word recognition unaffected, and left hemisphere ventral lesions that impair word recognition (pure alexia) should leave face recognition unaffected. The current study shows that neither of these predictions was upheld. A series of experiments characterizing speed and accuracy of word and face recognition were conducted in 7 patients (4 pure alexic, 3 prosopagnosic) and matched controls. Prosopagnosic patients revealed mild but reliable word recognition deficits, and pure alexic patients demonstrated mild but reliable face recognition deficits. The apparent comingling of face and word mechanisms is unexpected from a domain-specific perspective, but follows naturally as a consequence of an interactive, learning-based account in which neural processes for both faces and words are the result of an optimization procedure embodying specific computational principles and constraints
Department of Psychology, Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890, USA

Dundas, E. M., Plaut, D. C., & Behrmann, M. (2013). The joint development of hemispheric lateralization for words and faces. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142, 348-358.
Notes: Consistent with long-standing findings from behavioral studies, neuroimaging investigations have identified a region of the inferior temporal cortex that, in adults, shows greater face selectivity in the right than left hemisphere and, conversely, a region that shows greater word selectivity in the left than right hemisphere. What has not been determined is how this pattern of mature hemispheric specialization emerges over the course of development. The present study examines the hemispheric superiority for faces and words in children, young adolescents and adults in a discrimination task in which stimuli are presented briefly in either hemifield. Whereas adults showed the expected left and right visual field superiority for face and word discrimination, respectively, the young adolescents demonstrated only the right-field superiority for words and no field superiority for faces. Although the children's overall accuracy was lower than that of the older groups, like the young adolescents, they exhibited a right visual field superiority for words but no field superiority for faces. Interestingly, the emergence of face lateralization was correlated with reading competence, measured on an independent standardized test, after regressing out age, quantitative reasoning scores, and face discrimination accuracy. Taken together, these findings suggest that the hemispheric organization of face and word recognition do not develop independently and that word lateralization, which emerges earlier, may drive later face lateralization. A theoretical account in which competition for visual representations unfolds over the course of development is proposed to account for the findings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)
Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University

Laszlo, S. & Plaut, D. C. (2012). A neurally plausible Parallel Distributed Processing model of Event-Related Potential word reading data. Brain and Language, 120, 271-281.
Notes: The Parallel Distributed Processing (PDP) framework has significant potential for producing models of cognitive tasks that approximate how the brain performs the same tasks. To date, however, there has been relatively little contact between PDP modeling and data from cognitive neuroscience. In an attempt to advance the relationship between explicit, computational models and physiological data collected during the performance of cognitive tasks, we developed a PDP model of visual word recognition which simulates key results from the ERP reading literature, while simultaneously being able to successfully perform lexical decision-a benchmark task for reading models. Simulations reveal that the model's success depends on the implementation of several neurally plausible features in its architecture which are sufficiently domain-general to be relevant to cognitive modeling more generally
Department of Psychology, State University of New York, Binghamton, NY, United States

Nestor, A., Behrmann, M., & Plaut, D. C. (2012). The Neural Basis of Visual Word Form Processing: A Multivariate Investigation. Cerebral Cortex.
Notes: Current research on the neurobiological bases of reading points to the privileged role of a ventral cortical network in visual word processing. However, the properties of this network and, in particular, its selectivity for orthographic stimuli such as words and pseudowords remain topics of significant debate. Here, we approached this issue from a novel perspective by applying pattern-based analyses to functional magnetic resonance imaging data. Specifically, we examined whether, where and how, orthographic stimuli elicit distinct patterns of activation in the human cortex. First, at the category level, multivariate mapping found extensive sensitivity throughout the ventral cortex for words relative to false-font strings. Secondly, at the identity level, the multi-voxel pattern classification provided direct evidence that different pseudowords are encoded by distinct neural patterns. Thirdly, a comparison of pseudoword and face identification revealed that both stimulus types exploit common neural resources within the ventral cortical network. These results provide novel evidence regarding the involvement of the left ventral cortex in orthographic stimulus processing and shed light on its selectivity and discriminability profile. In particular, our findings support the existence of sublexical orthographic representations within the left ventral cortex while arguing for the continuity of reading with other visual recognition skills
Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, Carnegie Mellon University, 4400 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA

Plaut, D. C. & Behrmann, M. (2011). Complementary neural representations for faces and words: A computational exploration. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 28, 251-275.
Notes: A key issue that continues to generate controversy concerns the nature of the psychological, computational, and neural mechanisms that support the visual recognition of objects such as faces and words. While some researchers claim that visual recognition is accomplished by category-specific modules dedicated to processing distinct object classes, other researchers have argued for a more distributed system with only partially specialized cortical regions. Considerable evidence from both functional neuroimaging and neuropsychology would seem to favour the modular view, and yet close examination of those data reveals rather graded patterns of specialization that support a more distributed account. This paper explores a theoretical middle ground in which the functional specialization of brain regions arises from general principles and constraints on neural representation and learning that operate throughout cortex but that nonetheless have distinct implications for different classes of stimuli. The account is supported by a computational simulation, in the form of an artificial neural network, that illustrates how cooperative and competitive interactions in the formation of neural representations for faces and words account for both their shared and distinctive properties. We set out a series of empirical predictions, which are also examined, and consider the further implications of this account

Anders Gade