Nothing and Empty Sets

“For cognitvely advanced animals, the absence of stimulation can become behaviorally relevant so that nothing is no longer merely a lack of sensory stimulus but a behavioral category and as such would need to be actively encoded by neurons This active encoding of nothing was tested in a rule based detection task in which monkeys subjectively judged whether they had or had not seen a barely visible stimulus………….. Analyses of error trails showed that the activity of these neurons predicted the monkeys present/ absence judgements even before a response could be planned. Notably, the active coding of the ‘stimulus-absence decission was not a visual response but emerged during a delay phase when the monkey needed to decide whether it has seen the stimulus. This indicates that the categorical stimulus-absence signal arises during a post-sensory cognitive processing stage. Thus, behaviorally relevant stimulus absence decisions are not encoded by default (baseline) neuronal responses but rather internally generated signals. The brain seems to translate the lack of a stimulus into a categorical and active stimulus absence representation.”


Andreas Nieder, Representing Something Out of Nothing: The Dawning of Zero, Trends In Cognative Sciences, November 2016, Vol.20. No.11


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s