Brain scientists will have to rethink the current theory of how the visual processing region of the brain is organized to analyze basic information about the geometry of the environment, according to Duke neurobiologists. In a new study reported in the June 26, 2003, Nature, they studied the visual-processing region -- called the visual cortex -- of ferrets, as the animals’ brains responded to complex patterns.
The results, they said, indicated that clusters of neurons in that region do not specialize in recognizing a particular combination of stimulus features, as previously believed. Rather, individual clusters react to a broad range of stimulus combinations -- combinations that can be predicted by understanding the fundamental spatial and temporal properties of the visual stimulus. The scientists’ research was supported by the National Eye Institute.
The visual cortex -- a layer of brain tissue at the back of the head -- is the first area within the cerebral cortex that processes neural signals from the eye. It performs the basic tasks of recognizing the geometric features of a scene before relaying that information to higher brain regions, where such basic visual data are transformed into the conscious perception of the visual world.
Dennis Meredith | Duke University
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