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

represented only those elements that were new or missing, namely image differences. "When we analyse a scene, the eyes perform very fast miniature movements in order to register the fine details," explains Nora Nortmann, postgraduate student at the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Osnabrck and the RUB work group Optical Imaging. The information regarding those details are forwarded completely and immediately by the primary visual cortex. "If, on the other hand, the time elapsing between the gaze changes is longer, the cortex codes only those aspects in the images that have changed," continues Nora Nortmann. Thus, certain image sections stand out and interesting spots are easier to detect, as the researchers speculate.

"Our brain is permanently looking into the future"

This study illustrates how activities of visual neurons are influenced by past events. "The neurons build up a short-term memory that incorporates constant input," explains Dirk Jancke. However, if something changes abruptly in the perceived image, the brain generates a kind of error message on the basis of the past images. Those signals do not reflect the current input, but the way the current input deviates from the expectations. Researchers have hitherto postulated that this so-called predictive coding only takes place in higher brain areas. "We demonstrated that the principle applies for earlier phases of cortical processing, too," concludes Jancke. "Our brain is permanently looking into the future and comparing current input with the expectations that arose based on past situations."

Observing brain activities in millisecond range

In order to monitor the dynamics of neuronal activities in the brain in the millisecond range, the scientists used voltage-dependent dyes. Those substances fluoresce when neurons receive electrical impulses and become active. Thanks to a high-resolution camera system and the subsequent computer-aided an
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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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