Investigations into the organization of information in sensory cortex

Mathew E. Diamond, Rasmus S. Petersen, Justin A. Harris, Stefano Panzeri

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    One might take the exploration of sensory cortex in the first decades of the last century as the opening chapter of modern neuroscience. The combined approaches of (i) measuring effects of restricted ablation on functional capacities, both in the clinic and the laboratory, together with (ii) anatomical investigations of cortical lamination, arealization, and connectivity, and (iii) the early physiological probing of sensory representations, led to a fundamental body of knowledge that remains relevant to this day. In our time, there can be little doubt that its organization as a mosaic of columnar modules is the pervasive functional property of mammalian sensory cortex [Brain 120 (1997) 701]. If one accepts the assertion that columns and maps must improve the functioning of the brain (why else would they be the very hallmark of neocortex?), then the inevitable question is: exactly what advantages do they permit? In this review of our recent presentation at the workshop on Homeostasis, plasticity and learning at the Institut Henri Poincaré, we will outline a systematic approach to investigating the role of modular, map-like cortical organization in the processing of sensory information. We survey current evidence concerning the functional significance of cortical maps and modules, arguing that sensory cortex is involved not solely in the online processing of afferent data, but also in the storage and retrieval of information. We also show that the topographic framework of primary sensory cortex renders the encoding of sensory information efficient, fast and reliable. © 2004 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)529-536
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Physiology Paris
    Issue number4-6
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003


    • Barrel cortex
    • Learning
    • Plasticity
    • Topography


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