How the brain computes 3-dimensional structure

January 11, 2012

The incredible ability of our brain to create a three-dimensional (3D) representation from an object's two-dimensional projection on the retina is something that we may take for granted, but the process is not well understood and is likely to be highly complex. Now, new research published by Cell Press in the January 12 issue of the journal Neuron provides the first direct evidence that specific brain areas underlie perception of different 3D structures and sheds light the way that the primate brain reconstructs real-world objects.

The brain areas that underlie our ability to perceive objects as 3D were unknown, but previous research has implicated certain regions as playing a role in 3D processing. "One candidate for a brain area that could be involved in 3D-structure perception is the inferotemporal (IT) cortex," explains senior study author, Dr. Peter Janssen, from the Catholic University Leuven in Belgium. "The IT cortex contains shape-selective neurons that demonstrate selectivity for relatively simple 3D structures, such as convex (curved out) or concave (curved in) surfaces."

Dr. Janssen and colleagues were interested in investigating the specific role of IT neurons in 3D perception. Using rhesus monkeys that had been trained to report which 3D structure they perceived, the researchers electrically stimulated clusters of IT neurons that had a particular 3D-structure preference (convex or concave) while the monkeys were categorizing 3D structures as either convex or concave. Remarkably, stimulation of a particular cluster of neurons could cause the monkeys to choose the 3D structure preferred by those neurons. Further, stimulation accelerated the time it took to choose the preferred structure but delayed the choice of the nonpreferred structure.

Taken together, these results demonstrated that electrical stimulation of specific clusters of IT neurons profoundly and predictably influenced both the monkey's choices and the time taken to reach those decisions. "To our knowledge, our findings provide the first evidence relating a specific brain area directly to 3D-structure perception," concludes Dr. Janssen. "These observations advance the understanding of how the brain reconstructs the 3D world by demonstrating a causal involvement of IT in the perception of different 3D strucures."
-end-


Cell Press

Related Neurons Articles from Brightsurf:

Paying attention to the neurons behind our alertness
The neurons of layer 6 - the deepest layer of the cortex - were examined by researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University to uncover how they react to sensory stimulation in different behavioral states.

Trying to listen to the signal from neurons
Toyohashi University of Technology has developed a coaxial cable-inspired needle-electrode.

A mechanical way to stimulate neurons
Magnetic nanodiscs can be activated by an external magnetic field, providing a research tool for studying neural responses.

Extraordinary regeneration of neurons in zebrafish
Biologists from the University of Bayreuth have discovered a uniquely rapid form of regeneration in injured neurons and their function in the central nervous system of zebrafish.

Dopamine neurons mull over your options
Researchers at the University of Tsukuba have found that dopamine neurons in the brain can represent the decision-making process when making economic choices.

Neurons thrive even when malnourished
When animal, insect or human embryos grow in a malnourished environment, their developing nervous systems get first pick of any available nutrients so that new neurons can be made.

The first 3D map of the heart's neurons
An interdisciplinary research team establishes a new technological pipeline to build a 3D map of the neurons in the heart, revealing foundational insight into their role in heart attacks and other cardiac conditions.

Mapping the neurons of the rat heart in 3D
A team of researchers has developed a virtual 3D heart, digitally showcasing the heart's unique network of neurons for the first time.

How to put neurons into cages
Football-shaped microscale cages have been created using special laser technologies.

A molecule that directs neurons
A research team coordinated by the University of Trento studied a mass of brain cells, the habenula, linked to disorders like autism, schizophrenia and depression.

Read More: Neurons News and Neurons Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.