Sparse population coding of faces in the inferotemporal cortex

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Science  29 May 1992:
Vol. 256, Issue 5061, pp. 1327-1331
DOI: 10.1126/science.1598577


How does the brain represent objects in the world? A proportion of cells in the temporal cortex of monkeys responds specifically to objects, such as faces, but the type of coding used by these cells is not known. Population analysis of two sets of such cells showed that information is carried at the level of the population and that this information relates, in the anterior inferotemporal cortex, to the physical properties of face stimuli and, in the superior temporal polysensory area, to other aspects of the faces, such as their familiarity. There was often sufficient information in small populations of neurons to identify particular faces. These results suggest that representations of complex stimuli in the higher visual areas may take the form of a sparse population code.