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Trends Cogn Sci. 2007 Aug;11(8):333-41. Epub 2007 Jul 16.

Untangling invariant object recognition.

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McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Despite tremendous variation in the appearance of visual objects, primates can recognize a multitude of objects, each in a fraction of a second, with no apparent effort. However, the brain mechanisms that enable this fundamental ability are not understood. Drawing on ideas from neurophysiology and computation, we present a graphical perspective on the key computational challenges of object recognition, and argue that the format of neuronal population representation and a property that we term 'object tangling' are central. We use this perspective to show that the primate ventral visual processing stream achieves a particularly effective solution in which single-neuron invariance is not the goal. Finally, we speculate on the key neuronal mechanisms that could enable this solution, which, if understood, would have far-reaching implications for cognitive neuroscience.

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