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Explicit Encoding of Multimodal Percepts by Single Neurons in the Human Brain

Quiroga, Rodrigo Quian and Kraskov, Alexander and Koch, Christof and Fried, Itzhak (2009) Explicit Encoding of Multimodal Percepts by Single Neurons in the Human Brain. Current Biology, 19 (15). pp. 1308-1313. ISSN 0960-9822. PMCID PMC3032396. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.06.060.

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Different pictures of Marilyn Monroe can evoke the same percept, even if greatly modified as in Andy Warhol’s famous portraits. But how does the brain recognize highly variable pictures as the same percept? Various studies have provided insights into how visual information is processed along the ‘‘ventral pathway,’’ via both single-cell recordings in monkeys and functional imaging in humans. Interestingly, in humans, the same "concept" of Marilyn Monroe can be evoked with other stimulus modalities, for instance by hearing or reading her name. Brain imaging studies have identified cortical areas selective to voices and visual word forms. However, how visual, text, and sound information can elicit a unique percept is still largely unknown. By using presentations of pictures and of spoken and written names, we show that (1) single neurons in the human medial temporal lobe (MTL) respond selectively to representations of the same individual across different sensory modalities; (2) the degree of multimodal invariance increases along the hierarchical structure within the MTL; and (3) such neuronal representations can be generated within less than a day or two. These results demonstrate that single neurons can encode percepts in an explicit, selective, and invariant manner, even if evoked by different sensory modalities.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Koch, Christof0000-0001-6482-8067
Fried, Itzhak0000-0002-5962-2678
Additional Information:© 2009 Elsevier. Received 9 March 2009; revised 13 May 2009; accepted 5 June 2009. Published online: July 23, 2009. Available online 23 July 2009. We thank E. Behnke, T. Fields, A. Postolova, and K. Laird for technical assistance. This work was supported by grants from NINDS, EPSRC, MRC, the NIMH, DARPA, and the Mathers Foundation.
Group:Koch Laboratory (KLAB)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)UNSPECIFIED
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)UNSPECIFIED
Medical Research Council (MRC)UNSPECIFIED
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)UNSPECIFIED
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)UNSPECIFIED
G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Charitable FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:SYSNEURO
Issue or Number:15
PubMed Central ID:PMC3032396
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20090827-115206830
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, Alexander Kraskov, Christof Koch, Itzhak Fried, Explicit Encoding of Multimodal Percepts by Single Neurons in the Human Brain, In Current Biology, Volume 19, Issue 15, 2009, Pages 1308-1313, ISSN 0960-9822, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:15357
Deposited On:08 Sep 2009 16:36
Last Modified:08 Nov 2021 23:18

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