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Synaptic foundations of low level perception

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Mechanisms of low-level perception

Without perceptual grouping, our visual system would find tasks like object recognition and figure-ground segregation difficult. EU-funded researchers investigated the underlying neural-based mechanisms.


Perceptual grouping refers to how the visual cortex in the brain groups stimulus elements together to form a percept using similarity, continuity, proximity and closure. However, the neural-based mechanisms involved in perceptual grouping are still poorly understood. Under the aegis of the BRAIN PERCEPTS (Synaptic foundations of low level perception) project, researchers employed a multi-scale approach to elucidate such processes at the synaptic and cell assembly levels. They utilised intracellular electrophysiology to study the role of the mammalian visual cortex in form and motion perception. During the first project phase, training was provided for performing intracellular recordings, the necessary software was developed and the full experimental protocol was designed. A pilot study was run that helped in protocol optimisation. In the second year, project researchers analysed the pilot study, started collecting the experimental data and developed software for data analysis. Results shed light on the role of horizontal connections in the primary visual cortex as well as on the neural mechanisms implicated in perceptual grouping and motion perception. This work is of relevance in fields such as visual and systems neuroscience, eye movement control and psychology. Research outcomes were presented at national and international scientific meetings and two manuscripts are currently under preparation. BRAIN PERCEPTS also participated in several public engagement events and attended high-level meetings with industry representatives and policymakers. Applications include rehabilitation through neural training, visual prosthetics, artificial vision and robotics. To translate these results for technological advance and clinical application, the host research institute is now involved in other EU-funded projects such as BRAINSCALES and the Human Brain Project.


Low-level perception, perceptual grouping, visual cortex, synaptic, motion perception

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