The Representational Dynamics of Task and Object Processing in Humans

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Despite the importance of an observers goals in determining how a visual object is categorized, surprisingly little is known about how humans process the task context in which objects occur and how it may interact with the processing of objects. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and multivariate techniques, we studied the spatial and temporal dynamics of task and object processing. Our results reveal a sequence of separate but overlapping task-related processes spread across frontoparietal and occipitotemporal cortex. Task exhibited late effects on object processing by selectively enhancing task-relevant object features, with limited impact on the overall pattern of object representations. Combining MEG and fMRI data, we reveal a parallel rise in task-related signals throughout the cerebral cortex, with an increasing dominance of task over object representations from early to higher visual areas. Collectively, our results reveal the complex dynamics underlying task and object representations throughout human cortex.