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Cognition. 1998 Jul;67(1-2):111-45.

Evidence accumulation in cell populations responsive to faces: an account of generalisation of recognition without mental transformations.

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Psychological Laboratory, St. Andrews University, UK.


In this paper we analyse the time course of neuronal activity in temporal cortex to the sight of the head and body. Previous studies have already demonstrated the impact of view, orientation and part occlusion on individual cells. We consider the cells as a population providing evidence in the form of neuronal activity for perceptual decisions related to recognition. The time course on neural responses to stimuli provides an explanation of the variation in speed of recognition across different viewing circumstances that is seen in behavioural experiments. A simple unifying explanation of the behavioural effects is that the speed of recognition of an object depends on the rate of accumulation of activity from neurones selective for the object, evoked by a particular viewing circumstance. This in turn depends on the extent that the object has been seen previously under the particular circumstance. For any familiar object, more cells will be tuned to the configuration of the object's features present in the view or views most frequently experienced. Therefore, activity amongst the population of cells selective for the object's appearance will accumulate more slowly when the object is seen in an unusual view, orientation or size. This accounts for the increased time to recognise rotated views without the need to postulate 'mental rotation' or 'transformations' of novel views to align with neural representations of familiar views.

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