In the past, neuroscience was focused on individual neurons seen as the functional units of the nervous system, but this approach fell short over time to account for new experimental evidence, especially for what concerns associative and motor cortices. For this reason and thanks to great technological advances, a part of modern research has shifted the focus from the responses of single neurons to the activity of neural ensembles, now considered the real functional units of the system. However, on a microscale, individual neurons remain the computational components of these networks, thus the study of population dynamics cannot prescind from studying also individual neurons which represent their natural substrate. In this new framework, ideas such as the capability of single cells to encode a specific stimulus (neural selectivity) may become obsolete and need to be profoundly revised. One step in this direction was made by introducing the concept of "mixed selectivity," the capacity of single cells to integrate multiple variables in a flexible way, allowing individual neurons to participate in different networks. In this review, we outline the most important features of mixed selectivity and we also present recent works demonstrating its presence in the associative areas of the posterior parietal cortex. Finally, in discussing these findings, we present some open questions that could be addressed by future studies.

New insights on single-neuron selectivity in the era of population-level approaches

Vaccari, Francesco Edoardo;Diomedi, Stefano;Filippini, Matteo
;
Hadjidimitrakis, Kostas;Fattori, Patrizia
2022

Abstract

In the past, neuroscience was focused on individual neurons seen as the functional units of the nervous system, but this approach fell short over time to account for new experimental evidence, especially for what concerns associative and motor cortices. For this reason and thanks to great technological advances, a part of modern research has shifted the focus from the responses of single neurons to the activity of neural ensembles, now considered the real functional units of the system. However, on a microscale, individual neurons remain the computational components of these networks, thus the study of population dynamics cannot prescind from studying also individual neurons which represent their natural substrate. In this new framework, ideas such as the capability of single cells to encode a specific stimulus (neural selectivity) may become obsolete and need to be profoundly revised. One step in this direction was made by introducing the concept of "mixed selectivity," the capacity of single cells to integrate multiple variables in a flexible way, allowing individual neurons to participate in different networks. In this review, we outline the most important features of mixed selectivity and we also present recent works demonstrating its presence in the associative areas of the posterior parietal cortex. Finally, in discussing these findings, we present some open questions that could be addressed by future studies.
Vaccari, Francesco Edoardo; Diomedi, Stefano; Filippini, Matteo; Hadjidimitrakis, Kostas; Fattori, Patrizia
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/898044
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