Grandmother cell - Wikipedia

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2022-09-23 14:00:06

The grandmother cell, sometimes called the "Jennifer Aniston neuron", is a hypothetical neuron that represents a complex but specific concept or object.[1] It activates when a person "sees, hears, or otherwise sensibly discriminates"[2] a specific entity, such as their grandmother. The term was in use at least as early as 1966 amongst staff and students in the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, England.[citation needed ] A similar concept, that of the gnostic neuron, was proposed two years later by Jerzy Konorski.[3]

Visual neurons in the inferior temporal cortex of the monkey fire selectively to hands and faces.[4][5][6][7] These cells are selective in that they do not fire for other visual objects important for monkeys such as fruit and genitalia. Research finds that some of these cells can be trained to show high specificity for arbitrary visual objects, and these would seem to fit the requirements of gnostic/grandmother cells.[8][9] In addition, evidence exists for cells in the human hippocampus that have highly selective responses to different categories of stimuli[10][11] including highly selective responses to individual human faces.[12]

However most of the reported face-selective cells are not grandmother/gnostic cells since they do not represent a specific percept, that is, they are not cells narrowly selective in their activations for one face and only one face irrespective of transformations of size, orientation, and color. Even the most selective face cells usually also discharge, if more weakly, to a variety of individual faces. Furthermore, face-selective cells often vary in their responsiveness to different aspects of faces. This suggests that cell responsiveness arises from the need of a monkey to differentiate among different individual faces rather than among other categories of stimuli such as bananas with their discrimination properties linked to the fact that different individual faces are much more similar to each other in their overall organization and fine detail than other kinds of stimuli.[1] Moreover, it has been suggested that these cells might in fact be responding as specialized feature detector neurons that only function in the holistic context of a face construct.[13][14]

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