For years, neural activity in the brains visual cortex was thought to have only one job: to create visual perceptions. A new study by researchers at MITs Picower Institute for Learning and Memory shows that visual cortical activity can serve another purpose--connecting visual experience with non-visual events.
The study, slated to appear in the March 17 issue of Science, implies that sensory parts of the brain may be able to accomplish more complex tasks than previously imagined, according to co-authors Marshall G. Shuler, MIT research affiliate, and Mark F. Bear, professor of brain and cognitive sciences. The findings have implications for understanding how our brains imbue sensory experience with behavioral meaning.
Electrodes were implanted in the visual cortex of adult rats. Initially, as expected, their neurons responded only to light. However, as the animal repeatedly experienced a light stimulus with the delivery of a drop of water, the neuronal activity changed. And in many cases, the neuron continued to be active after the light was extinguished until the water reward was delivered.
Patti Richards | MIT News Office
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