The sensory representations within our brain help us know the world. The electrical activation of neural cells, the code that contains the information that is constantly processed by the brain performs such 'reconstructions.' If we wish to understand what are the rules followed by the representation of the world inside the brain we have to comprehend how electrical activation is linked to the sensory experience. For this reason, a team of researchers including Mathew Diamond, Houman Safaai and Moritz von Heimendahl of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste have analyzed the behavior and the activation of neural networks in rats while they were carrying out tactile object recognition tests.
During the experiments researchers observed the performance of rats – the animals were discriminating one texture from another – along with the activation of a group of sensory neurons. "For the first time the study has monitored the activity of multiple neurons, while until now, due to technical limitations, researchers had examined only individual neurons," explains Diamond, who heads up the Tactile Perception and Learning Lab at SISSA. "The activity of such groups of neurons is represented in our model as multi-dimensional clouds, comprising as many dimensions as the number of cells under examination (up to ten). We have observed a different cloud for the contact with each different texture."