Revving engines, blasting sirens, the drummer next door. Despite the myriad sensory stimuli going on around us at any given moment, humans have the ability to stay focused on the task at hand. This skill is due to a part of the brain known as the neocortex, a six-layer structure whose intricate wiring is largely a mystery. But researchers at the University of Virginia just took a big step toward a broader understanding of how this region works. They discovered two never-before-identified circuits in the rat sensorimotor cortex that help explain how the brain filters information.
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Humans invent tools, talk to each other, and philosophize, thanks to a part of the brain known as the neocortex. All mammals have it, allowing them to function on a more sophisticated level than animals like geckos and sea anemones. And then there are birds. Avians don’t have a neocortex, yet they display higher level processes in their behavior, a characteristic which led Dr. Harvey Karten to speculate about the existence of a similar structure in birds. New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms his hypothesis over four decades later.
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