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Chapter 71

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University of Guelph
PSYC 2410
Boyer Winters

Chapter 7 Mechanisms of Perception Hearing Touch Smell Taste and Attention This chapter focuses on four of the five exteroceptive sensory systems auditory hearing somatosensory toucholfactory smell and gustatory taste71 Principles of Sensory System OrganizationThe sensory areas of the cortex are considered to be of three fundamentally different types primary secondary andassociationThe primary sensory cortex of a system is the area of sensory cortex that receives most of its input directly from thethalamic relay nuclei of that systemThe secondary sensory cortex of a system comprises the areas of the sensory cortex that receive most of their inputfrom the primary sensory cortex of that system or from other areas of the secondary cortex of the same systemAssociation cortex is any area of cortex that receives input from more than one sensory systemMost input to areas ofassociation cortex comes via areas of secondary sensory cortexThe organization among these three types of sensory cortex and among other sensory structures are characterized bythree major principles hierarchical organization functional aggregation and parallel processingHierarchical Organization A hierarchialis a system whose members can be assigned to specific levels or ranks in relation to one another Sensory structures are organized in a hierarchy on the basis of the specificity and complexity of their function As one moves through a sensory system from receptors to thalamic nuclei to primary sensory cortex tosecondary sensory cortex one finds neurons that respond optimally to stimuli of greater and greater specificity Each level of a sensory hierarchy receives most of its input from lower levels and adds another layer of analysisbefore passing it up on the hierarchy The higher the level of damage the more specific and complex the deficit Psychologists divide the general process of perceiving into two general phases sensation and perceptionSensation is the process of detecting the presence of stimuliPerception is the higherorder process of integrating recognizing and interpreting complete patternsof sensationFunctional Segregation Each of thre three levels of cerebral cortex in each sensory system contain functionally distinct areas thatspecialize in different kinds of analysisParallel Processing It was once believed that the different levels of a sensory hierarchy were connected in a serial fashionA serialsystem is a system in which information flows among the components over just one pathway There is now evidence that sensory systems are parallel systems in which information flows through thecomponents over multiple pathways Parallel systems feature parallel processingthe simultaneous analysis of a signal in different ways by themultiple parallel pathways of a neural network There appear to be two fundamentally different kinds of parallel streams of analysis in our sensory systemsone that is capable on finfluencing our behaviour without our conscious awareness and one that influences ourbehaviour by engaging our conscious awarenessSensory systems are characterized by a division of labour multiple specialized areas at multiple levels areinterconnected by multiple parallel pathwaysHow does the brain combine individual sensory attributes to produce integrated perceptionsThis is called thebinding problemIt seems that perceptions must be a product of the combined activity of different interconnected cortical areasMost sensory neurons carry information from lower to higher levels of their respective sensory hierarchiesSome conduct in the opposite directionThese are said to carry topdown signals72 Auditory SystemThe function of the auditory system is the perception of sound or more accurately the perception of objects andevents though the sounds that they makeSounds are vibrations of air molecules that stimulate the auditory system humans hear only those molecular
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