The Perceptual Significance of Cortical Organization

  • Peter Lennie
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 203)


Neurophysiologists are well aware of the limitations of single-unit recording in elucidating the functional organization of visual cortex: the technique provides us with information about the behavior of only one component in a complex network, and is subject to sampling biases. Moreover, there are good reasons to fear that even when we have learned a lot about the behavior of an individual cell, we will not understand much about its role in vision. A well-worn analogy would be trying to understand the role of a particular transistor in a computer by observing the voltage changes at its emitter. The recognition of these limitations has not diminished our reliance on single-unit recording as a source of ideas about the organization of cortex; indeed, the many impressive similarities between the visual sensitivities of individual neurons and those of psychophysical observers reinforce the notion that perception is simply and directly related to the activity of single units (Barlow, 1972). Two recent developments have prompted me to worry that we may have become a little too willing to overlook the limitations of single-unit recording.


Visual Cortex Receptive Field Macaque Monkey Illusory Contour Striate Cortex 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Lennie
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Visual ScienceUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA

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