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

written names to show that single neurons in the human hippocampus and surrounding areas respond selectively to representations of the same individual using different sensory prompts. For example a neuron responded to three pictures of the TV host "Oprah Winfrey", to her name written in the computer screen and to a computer synthesized voice saying "Oprah"; another one fired to different pictures and the written and pronounced name of "Luke Skywalker", from the classic movie "Star Wars". Another neuron fired strongly to the pictures and the written and spoken name of the ex-football star "Diego Maradona", even to a picture of Maradona in the soccer field when his face was not visible but the patient still recognized as Maradona.

They also found that such degree of abstraction in the sense that neurons fired the same to different pictures or the name of a particular person- increased along the hierarchical structure within the areas they recorded from.

Moreover, Professor Quian Quiroga found neurons responding to his own pictures and name, thus suggesting that such neuronal representations can be generated relatively fast, because he was unknown to the patient a day or two before the recording took place.

Said Professor Quian Quiroga: "These results demonstrate that single neurons can encode concepts in a very abstract way, even if evoked by different sensory modalities"

The study breaks new ground by demonstrating how neurons previously studied by the team respond not only to picture, but to written and spoken names too.

Professor Quian Quiroga said: "The processing of visual and auditory information follows completely different cortical pathways in the brain, but we are showing that this information converges into single neurons in the hippocampus, at the very end of these pathways for processing sensory information.

"This work gives us further understandings of how information is processed in the brain, by cr
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Contact: Rodrigo Quian Quiroga
rqqg1@le.ac.uk
University of Leicester
Source:Eurekalert

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