On the specificity of neurons and visual areas

Behav Brain Res. 1996 Apr;76(1-2):21-35. doi: 10.1016/0166-4328(95)00186-7.


The dominant view during the past 40 years has been that the visual system analyzes the visual scene by breaking it down into basic attributes such as color, form, motion, depth and texture. Individual dedicated neurons and specific visual areas were believed to be devoted to the analysis of each of these attributes. Current research has challenged these views by emphasizing that neurons, especially in the cortex, have multifunctional properties and therefore serve as general-purpose analyzers rather than feature detectors. Consequently, it appears that most extrastriate visual areas, rather than each being devoted to the analysis of a specific basic visual attribute, perform several different tasks and thereby engage in more advanced and complex analyses than had been realized.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Analyzers / anatomy & histology*
  • Neural Analyzers / physiology*
  • Neurosciences / history
  • Neurosciences / trends*
  • Retina / anatomy & histology
  • Retina / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*