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Neurobiological mechanizms of subjective perception


Yu.I. Nechaev, O.N. Petrov

The article offers a new outlook on the organization of the processes of human perception. It introduces the concept of inclusive sensory characteristic, which is a response of a given perceptual level to those features or characteristics of an underlying level whose spatial organization or specific temporal succession constitutes an adaptively meaningful entity. An inclusive characteristic is a perceptual hypothesis of what a given specific combination of features corresponds to a certain object or event. The inclusive characteristic is specific component organization, which generates a meaningful entity, and is itself is a component of an overarching characteristic of higher level perception. Neuronal structure which corresponds to any level of perception produces a characteristic which includes the data of a underlying level, the specific combination of which constitutes an adaptively meaningful entity. A sensory event not producing an inclusive characteristic cannot be perceived as a comprehensible entity. Only selected features and their inclusive characteristics are sensory data. The sensory systems neither perceive nor send any other information to superior cerebral structures. The hierarchy of inclusive characteristics is a pathway from perception of physical characteristics to the formation of semantic characteristics. The higher is a level in the system of perception, the fewer physical details the respective inclusive characteristic would contain, and the more unique semantic traits of the surrounding world it would express. Images and scenes of environment may be mapped by hierarchically arranged set of embedded sensory characteristics, which provides the detail (at the expense of lower levels) and entirety of the mapping (at the expense of higher levels). At each level of perception only meaningful entities are selected from data of the underlying level. The higher is a level in the system of perception, the less is the number of sensory objects. At the highest level, there exists only one characteristic in each act of perception which includes data of underlying levels in a meaningful entity, that is, an image or a scene. Therefore, no combinatory explosion is possible in the model of inclusive characteristics, as there is none in real perception. Inclusive characteristics are an alternative to the ideas of integral characteristics and integral images predominant in the brain science.

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