One of the greatest research pursuits is the understanding of how our brains work. Towards this goal, a landmark discovery by Dr. John O’Keefe revealed that information flowing into the brain is not processed independently, but understood by relationships between the stimuli. He observed that hippocampal neurons fired based on where the organism was in its environment. Dr. O’Keefe termed these neurons as place cells, and the location causing their firing as a place field. Similar phenomenons have been observed with other sensory inputs, forming the more general idea of a receptive field. A neuron’s receptive field is the subset of the stimulus space that causes the neuron to fire. In Dr. O’Keefe’s studies, the stimulus space would be the visual and physical characteristics of a maze and an example receptive field could be a specific corner. But these results beg the question:
How does the brain structure receptive fields?
In my portfolio page, I’ve written a post on some incredible progress that Dr. Nora Youngs has made towards answering this question and some contributions that myself and others have made.