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Oprah, Luke Skywalker and Maradona -- new study investigates how our brains respond to them
Date:7/23/2009

Pictures paint concepts of a thousand words- now, for the first time, scientists studying the brain have worked out how words paint concepts in our minds.

The team, including Professor Rodrigo Quian Quiroga at the Department of Engineering of the University of Leicester in the UK, Professor Itzhak Fried at the University California Los Angeles and Professor Christof Koch at the California Institute of Technology, has published these findings in the journal Current Biology. It is published online on 23 July and in the print issue on 11 August.

The results are important for understanding how perception and memory formation occurs.

Professor Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, head of Bioengineering at the University of Leicester, led the study which concluded that, although processing of visual and auditory information occur along completely separate pathways, the visual and auditory processing routes converge to end up firing the same single neurons.

He said: "Different pictures of Marilyn Monroe can evoke the same mental image, even if greatly modified as in Warhol's famous portraits. This process relates to one of the most fascinating questions in neuroscience: how do neurons in the brain manage to abstract and disregard irrelevant details to recognize highly variable pictures as the same person?"

Professor Quian Quiroga said various studies had provided insights into how visual information is processed in the brain. He added:

"Interestingly, in humans, the same "concept" of Marilyn can be evoked with other stimulus modalities, for instance by hearing or reading her name. Brain imaging studies have identified cortical areas in the human temporal lobe that are selective to voices and words. However, how visual, text and sound information can elicit a unique percept is still largely unknown."

The University of Leicester team in collaboration with UCLA and Caltech used presentations of pictures, spoken and
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Contact: Rodrigo Quian Quiroga
rqqg1@le.ac.uk
University of Leicester
Source:Eurekalert

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