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Biological Research

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MALDONADO A, PEDRO. What we see is how we are: New paradigms in visual research. Biol. Res. [online]. 2007, vol.40, n.4, pp.439-450. ISSN 0716-9760.

As most sensory modalities, the visual system needs to deal with very fast changes in the environment. Instead of processing all sensory stimuli, the brain is able to construct a perceptual experience by combining selected sensory input with an ongoing internal activity. Thus, the study of visual perception needs to be approached by examining not only the physical properties of stimuli, but also the brain's ongoing dynamical states onto which these perturbations are imposed. At least three different models account for this internal dynamics. One model is based on cardinal cells where the activity of few cells by itself constitutes the neuronal correlate of perception, while a second model is based on a population coding that states that the neuronal correlate of perception requires distributed activity throughout many areas of the brain. A third proposition, known as the temporal correlation hypothesis states that the distributed neuronal populations that correlate with perception, are also defined by synchronization of the activity on a millisecond time scale. This would serve to encode contextual information by defining relations between the features of visual objects. If temporal properties of neural activity are important to establish the neural mechanisms of perception, then the study of appropriate dynamical stimuli should be instrumental to determine how these systems operate. The use of natural stimuli and natural behaviors such as free viewing, which features fast changes of internal brain states as seen by motor markers, is proposed as a new experimental paradigm to study visual perception

Keywords : perception; synchrony; neural coding.

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