The inner representation of the external world – from conditioned reflexes to high level mental functions in the light of Nobel Prizes

DOI: 10.1515/amma-2015-0001

In this paper the seminal results of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Laureates are presented. First, a historical review of the development of our knowledge is provided along with the major paradigm shifts, by looking at the Nobel prizes awarded in the field of neuroscience in the last 110 years. We outline the major discoveries that were necessary for humankind to pass through the road leading to the remarkable understanding of high-level mental functions, which led to this year’s Nobel Prize award. Next, the ground breaking discoveries of this year Nobel laureates are presented, which provide insights how neural representations of the environment are formed in the association cortices. These cortical areas are many synapses away from sensory receptors and motor outputs, and their activity do not reflect directly the activation patterns of the receptor population, but depends more strongly on intrinsic cortical computations. We also present how ensembles of specialized cells work together to compute complex cognitive functions and behaviour.

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