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From retina to cortex: Max Planck researchers discover an unexpected division of labor

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05/03/2016 02:40 AM
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From retina to cortex: Max Planck researchers discover an unexpected division of labor
Neurons in our brain do a remarkable job of translating sensory information into reliable representations of our world that are critical to effectively guide our behavior. The parts of the brain that are responsible for vision have long been center stage for scientists' efforts to understand the rules that neural circuits use to encode sensory information. Years of research have led to a fairly detailed picture of the initial steps of this visual process, carried out in the retina, and how information from this stage is transmitted to the visual part of the cerebral cortex, a thin sheet of neurons that forms the outer surface of the brain. We have also learned much about the way that neurons represent visual information in visual cortex, as well as how different this representation is from the information initially supplied by the retina. Scientists are now working to understand the set of rules -- the neural blueprint -- that explains how these representations of visual information in the visual cortex are constructed from the information provided by the retina. Using the latest functional imaging techniques, scientists at MPFI have recently discovered a surprisingly simple rule that explains how neural circuits combine information supplied by different types of cells in the retina to build a coherent, information-rich representation of our visual world.

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