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Neuronal assemblies: necessity, signature and detectability


Engel AK, Kreiter AK, Munk,  MHJ
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Singer, W., Engel AK, Kreiter AK, Munk, M., Neuenschwander, S., & Roelfsema, P. (1997). Neuronal assemblies: necessity, signature and detectability. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 1(7), 252-261. doi:10.1016/S1364-6613(97)01079-6.

The ease with which highly developed brains can generate representations of a virtually unlimited diversity of perceptual objects indicates that they have developed very efficient mechanisms to analyse and represent relations among incoming signals. Here, we propose that two complementary strategies are applied to cope with these combinatorial problems. First, elementary relations are represented by the tuned responses of individual neurons that acquire their specific response properties (feature selectivity) through appropriate convergence of input connections in hierarchically structured feed-forward architectures. Second, complex relations that cannot be represented economically by the responses of individual neurons are represented by assemblies of cells that are generated by dynamic association of individual, featureselective cells. The signature identifying the responses of an assembly as components of a coherent code is thought to be the synchronicity of the respective discharges. The compatibility of this hypothesis is examined in the context of recent data on the dynamics of synchronization phenomena, the dependence of synchronization on central states and the relations between the synchronization behaviour of neurons and perception.