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Distinct Brain Cells Recognize Novel Sights

The brain’s ability to learn to recognize objects plays out in the inferior temporal cortex. A new study offers a possible explanation of how two classes of neurons play distinct roles to help that happen.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — No matter what novel objects we come to behold, our brains effortlessly take us from an initial “What’s that?” to “Oh, that old thing” after a few casual encounters. In research that helps shed light on the malleability of this recognition process, Brown University neuroscientists have teased apart the potentially different roles that two distinct cell types may play.

In a study published online in advance in the journal Neuron, the researchers document that this kind of learning is based in the inferior temporal cortex (ITC), a brain area buried deep in the skull. Scientists already knew the area was important for visual recognition of familiar items, but they hadn’t figured out the steps required to move from novelty to familiarity, a process they refer to as “plasticity.” (more…)

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