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Color Space Geometry Uncovered with Magnetoencephalography

Rosenthal, Isabelle A. and Singh, Shridhar R. and Hermann, Katherine L. and Pantazis, Dimitrios and Conway, Bevil R. (2021) Color Space Geometry Uncovered with Magnetoencephalography. Current Biology, 31 (3). pp. 515-526. ISSN 0960-9822. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2020.10.062.

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The geometry that describes the relationship among colors, and the neural mechanisms that support color vision, are unsettled. Here, we use multivariate analyses of measurements of brain activity obtained with magnetoencephalography to reverse-engineer a geometry of the neural representation of color space. The analyses depend upon determining similarity relationships among the spatial patterns of neural responses to different colors and assessing how these relationships change in time. We evaluate the approach by relating the results to universal patterns in color naming. Two prominent patterns of color naming could be accounted for by the decoding results: the greater precision in naming warm colors compared to cool colors evident by an interaction of hue and lightness, and the preeminence among colors of reddish hues. Additional experiments showed that classifiers trained on responses to color words could decode color from data obtained using colored stimuli, but only at relatively long delays after stimulus onset. These results provide evidence that perceptual representations can give rise to semantic representations, but not the reverse. Taken together, the results uncover a dynamic geometry that provides neural correlates for color appearance and generates new hypotheses about the structure of color space.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Rosenthal, Isabelle A.0000-0002-9791-3820
Pantazis, Dimitrios0000-0002-2146-9065
Conway, Bevil R.0000-0001-7715-9253
Alternate Title:Uncovering the geometry of color space with magnetoencephalography (MEG)
Additional Information:© 2021 Published by Elsevier Inc. Received 13 August 2020, Revised 21 September 2020, Accepted 21 October 2020, Available online 16 November 2020. We thank Chris Baker and members of his laboratory, Susan Wardle, Alex Rehding, and Daniel Garside for helpful discussions, and Christine Vonder Haar for help collecting and analyzing the MTurk data. This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Eye Institute, and grant R01 EY-0233223 to B.R.C. Author Contributions: K.L.H. and B.R.C. conceived and designed the experiments; I.A.R. and K.L.H. collected the data; I.A.R., S.R.S., K.L.H., and B.R.C. analyzed the data; I.A.R., S.R.S., and B.R.C. made the figures; D.P. provided expertise and resources for MEG; B.R.C. supervised the work and wrote the paper; all authors provided comments on the manuscript. The authors declare no competing interests.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NIHR01 EY-0233223
Subject Keywords:color processing; basic color categories; color decoding; representational similarity analysis; RSA; multidimensional scaling; MDS; electroencephalography; EEG; Sapir-Whorf hypothesis; cross-temporal generalization; semantic representations; mind reading; scalp recording
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210506-155006196
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Official Citation:Isabelle A. Rosenthal, Shridhar R. Singh, Katherine L. Hermann, Dimitrios Pantazis, Bevil R. Conway, Color Space Geometry Uncovered with Magnetoencephalography, Current Biology, Volume 31, Issue 3, 2021, Pages 515-526.e5, ISSN 0960-9822, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:108999
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:06 May 2021 22:58
Last Modified:06 May 2021 22:58

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