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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2006 Aug;16(4):408-14. Epub 2006 Jul 7.

Coding of visual objects in the ventral stream.

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McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


How are objects represented in the brain? Two facets of this question are currently under investigation. First, are objects represented by activity in a relatively small number of neurons that are each selective for the shape or identity of a specific object (a 'sparse code'), or are they represented by a pattern of activity across a large number of less selective neurons (a 'population code')? Second, how are the neurons that code for an object distributed across the cortex: are they clustered together in patches, or are they scattered widely across the cortex? The results from neurophysiology and functional magnetic resonance imaging studies are beginning to provide preliminary answers to both questions.

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