Sparse coding in the primate cortex

A central goal in the study of cortical function is to understand how states of the environment are represented by firing patterns of cortical neurons. Electrophysiological recordings from single cells have revealed a remarkably close relationship among stimuli, neural activity, and perceptual states. The nature of this relationship and interpretations of experimental results are fiercely debated. Is sensory information represented by the activity of single, individually meaningful cells, or is it only the global activity pattern across a whole cell population that corresponds to interpretable states? There are now strong theoretical reasons and experimental evidence suggesting that the brain adopts a compromise between these extremes which is often referred to as sparse coding.

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