Dimensionality reduction in neuroscience

Curr Biol. 2016 Jul 25;26(14):R656-60. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.05.029.


The nervous system extracts information from its environment and distributes and processes that information to inform and drive behaviour. In this task, the nervous system faces a type of data analysis problem, for, while a visual scene may be overflowing with information, reaching for the television remote before us requires extraction of only a relatively small fraction of that information. We could care about an almost infinite number of visual stimulus patterns, but we don't: we distinguish two actors' faces with ease but two different images of television static with significant difficulty. Equally, we could respond with an almost infinite number of movements, but we don't: the motions executed to pick up the remote are highly stereotyped and related to many other grasping motions. If we were to look at what was going on inside the brain during this task, we would find populations of neurons whose electrical activity was highly structured and correlated with the images on the screen and the action of localizing and picking up the remote.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Perception*