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Receptive Fields

A central assumption of sensory neurobiology is that the neural substrate of perception is the electrical activity of the sensory neurons activated by a given stimulus, that is, that understanding how sensory neurons respond to sensory stimuli will lead to an understanding of how organisms respond to sensory stimuli. But no less important than which stimuli are effective is where stimuli must be located to elicit neural responses. The receptive field of a sensory neuron is the region in the sensory periphery, for example a portion of the retina or of the body surface, within which stimuli can influence the electrical activity of that cell. This entry discusses the determination of the receptive field, the nonclassical receptive field, and characterization of receptive field properties.

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