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Neurons subtract images and use the differences
Date:12/17/2013

Ten million bits that's the information volume transmitted every second with every quick eye movement from the eye to the cerebrum. Researchers from the Ruhr-Universitt Bochum (RUB) and the University of Osnabrck describe the way those data are processed by the primary visual cortex, the entry point for the visual information into the brain, in the journal "Cerebral Cortex". Deploying novel optical imaging methods, they demonstrated that the brain does not always transmit the entire image information. Rather, it uses the differences between current and previously viewed images.

Efficient reduction of data volumes

Researchers have hitherto assumed that information supplied by the sense of sight was transmitted almost in its entirety from its entry point to higher brain areas, across which visual sensation is generated. "It was therefore a surprise to discover that the data volumes are considerably reduced as early as in the primary visual cortex, the bottleneck leading to the cerebrum," says PD Dr Dirk Jancke from the Institute for Neural Computation at the Ruhr-Universitt. "We intuitively assume that our visual system generates a continuous stream of images, just like a video camera. However, we have now demonstrated that the visual cortex suppresses redundant information and saves energy by frequently forwarding image differences."

Plus or minus: the brain's two coding strategies

The researchers recorded the neurons' responses to natural image sequences, for example vegetation landscapes or buildings. They created two versions of the images: a complete one and one in which they had systematically removed certain elements, specifically vertical or horizontal contours. If the time elapsing between the individual images was short, i.e. 30 milliseconds, the neurons represented complete image information. That changed when the time elapsing in the sequences was longer than 100 milliseconds. Now, the neurons
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Contact: Dr. Dirk Jancke
dirk.jancke@rub.de
49-234-322-7845
Ruhr-University Bochum
Source:Eurekalert

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