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Researchers Uncover Brain's Response to New Sensory Input Patterns

Researchers Uncover Brain's Response to New Sensory Input Patterns

November 24, 2023

Researchers have overcome a longstanding challenge in testing a fundamental theory about the brain's response to new sensory input patterns. "Testing this theory has always been a challenge," notes one researcher, emphasizing the need to measure top-down signals in the brain's sensory areas over extended periods.

The team, led by Fellows from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research's Learning in Machines and Brains group, employed a mouse model to display visual patterns and studied how neurons in the visual cortex reacted to new, pattern-violating sensory information.

The research, conducted as part of the Allen Institute for Brain Science's Brain Observatory and OpenScope program, resembles an astronomical observatory where researchers collaboratively explore the brain's intricacies. The focus was on measuring responses at distal apical dendrites and cell bodies in the visual cortex to understand how they process visual stimuli matching or violating expected patterns.

The groundbreaking discovery reveals that the brain's response to pattern-violating stimuli evolves uniquely over time, with distal apical dendrites becoming increasingly sensitive, while cell bodies lose their initial strong sensitivity. This insight into sensory computation and predictive learning could redefine our understanding of how the brain processes new visual information.

"This finding could offer critical insight into sensory computation and predictive learning in the brain," emphasizes the lead researcher, a computational neuroscientist. The study suggests that distinct forms of pattern-violating stimuli may drive different types of prediction errors, unveiling a previously unknown component of the brain's role in sensory learning.

Understanding how the brain processes new visual sensory information holds immense potential for advancing machine learning algorithms and applications. The ultimate goal is to contribute to the development of technologies that could potentially restore sight for individuals in the future, underscoring the significance of this groundbreaking research.


Colleen Gillen et al, Responses to pattern-violating visual stimuli evolve differently over days in somata and distal apical dendrites, JNeurosci (2023). DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1009-23.2023