Microcircuits for Hierarchical Elaboration of Object Coding Across Primate Temporal Areas

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Science  12 Jul 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6142, pp. 191-195
DOI: 10.1126/science.1236927

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Hierarchy and Representation

Neuronal representations of objects are elaborated through the hierarchy of occipitotemporal cortical areas, and the recognition of a feature as “novel” is commonly thought to emerge and become prevalent at a cortical area because of local signal processing. Hirabayashi et al. (p. 191) tested another possibility—that a feature representation becomes prevalent in a given area because a microcircuit creates a small number of precursor representations in a prior area in the cortical hierarchy, and the representations then become prevalent through proliferation in the subsequent area. In support of this notion, critical microcircuits for object association were observed using multiple single-unit recordings in two areas of the macaque temporal cortex.


In primates, neuronal representations of objects are processed hierarchically in occipitotemporal cortices. A “novel” feature of objects is thought to emerge and become prevalent at a cortical area because of processing in this area. We tested the possibility that a feature representation prevalent in a given area emerges in the microcircuit of a hierarchically prior area as a small number of prototypes and then becomes prevalent in the subsequent area. We recorded multiple single units in each of hierarchically sequential areas TE and 36 of macaque temporal cortex and found the predicted convergent microcircuit for object-object association in area TE. Associative codes were then built up over time in the microcircuit of area 36. These results suggest a computational principle underlying sequentially elaborated object representations.

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