For years, neurophysiologists have observed that many neurons in higher-level cortex have “weird” properties. They activate across a wide range of seemingly unrelated conditions and thus don’t seem to fit into the traditional view of brain function in which each neuron has a single function or message. They were often considered a “complicating nuisance” at best or dismissed at worst. It turns out that these mixed selectivity neurons may be the most critical for complex behavior and cognition. They greatly expand the brain’s computational power.
Read MIT press release: Complex brain function depends on flexibility
Rigotti, M., Barak, O., Warden, M.R., Wang, X., Daw, N.D., Miller, E.K., & Fusi, S. (2013) The importance of mixed selectivity in complex cognitive tasks. Nature View PDF doi:10.1038/nature12160
About the Author
The Miller Lab uses experimental and theoretical approaches to study the neural basis of the high-level cognitive functions that underlie complex goal-directed behavior. ekmillerlab.mit.edu