Concept Cells

July 8, 2012 by
Filed under: Research, Spinewave Bulletin 

The Force is strong with this new article from Nature Reviews Neuroscience! Neurons in the human medial temporal lobe respond in a selective and abstract manner to particular persons, such as Luke Skywalker, or objects, such as the Tower of Pisa.

“Concept cells” are said to be the building blocks of declarative memory functions.

Intracranial recordings in subjects suffering from intractable epilepsy – made during their evaluation for an eventual surgical removal of the epileptic focus – have allowed the extraordinary opportunity to study the firing of multiple single neurons in awake and behaving human subjects. These studies have shown that neurons in the human medial temporal lobe respond in a remarkably selective and abstract manner to particular persons or objects, such as Jennifer Aniston, Luke Skywalker or the Tower of Pisa.

These neurons have been named “Jennifer Aniston neurons” or, more recently, “concept cells”. The author argues that the sparse, explicit and abstract representation of these neurons is crucial for memory functions, such as the creation of associations and the transition between related concepts that leads to episodic memories and the flow of consciousness.

Reference: Nature Reviews Neuroscience doi:10.1038/nrn3251

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