Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Frontiers in Neuroscience


Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

Additional Department

Geisel School of Medicine


Encoding models for mapping voxelwise semantic tuning are typically estimated separately for each individual, limiting their generalizability. In the current report, we develop a method for estimating semantic encoding models that generalize across individuals. Functional MRI was used to measure brain responses while participants freely viewed a naturalistic audiovisual movie. Word embeddings capturing agent-, action-, object-, and scene-related semantic content were assigned to each imaging volume based on an annotation of the film. We constructed both conventional within-subject semantic encoding models and between-subject models where the model was trained on a subset of participants and validated on a left-out participant. Between-subject models were trained using cortical surface-based anatomical normalization or surface-based whole-cortex hyperalignment. We used hyperalignment to project group data into an individual’s unique anatomical space via a common representational space, thus leveraging a larger volume of data for out-of-sample prediction while preserving the individual’s fine-grained functional–anatomical idiosyncrasies. Our findings demonstrate that anatomical normalization degrades the spatial specificity of between-subject encoding models relative to within-subject models. Hyperalignment, on the other hand, recovers the spatial specificity of semantic tuning lost during anatomical normalization, and yields model performance exceeding that of within-subject models.