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Early differential processing of material images: Evidence from ERP classification
Investigating the temporal dynamics of natural image processing using event-related potentials (ERPs) has a long tradition in object recognition research. In a classical Go-NoGo task two characteristic effects have been emphasized: an early task independent category effect and a later task-dependent target effect. Here, we set out to use this well-established Go-NoGo paradigm to study the time course of material categorization. Material perception has gained more and more interest over the years as its importance in natural viewing conditions has been ignored for a long time. In addition to analyzing standard ERPs, we conducted a single trial ERP pattern analysis. To validate this procedure, we also measured ERPs in two object categories (people and animals). Our linear classification procedure was able to largely capture the overall pattern of results from the canonical analysis of the ERPs and even extend it. We replicate the known target effect (differential Go-NoGo potential at frontal sites) for the material images. Furthermore, we observe task-independent differential activity between the two material categories as early as 140 ms after stimulus onset. Using our linear classification approach, we show that material categories can be differentiated consistently based on the ERP pattern in single trials around 100 ms after stimulus onset, independent of the target-related status. This strengthens the idea of early differential visual processing of material categories independent of the task, probably due to differences in low-level image properties and suggests pattern classification of ERP topographies as a strong instrument for investigating electrophysiological brain activity.