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PubMed | Carinthian Technology Research Villach
Type: | Journal: Frontiers in psychology | Year: 2012

The binding problem in perception is concerned with answering the question how information from millions of sensory receptors, processed by millions of neurons working in parallel, can be merged into a unified percept. Binding in perception reaches from the lowest levels of feature binding up to the levels of multimodal binding of information coming from the different sensor modalities and also from other functional systems. The last 40years of research have shown that the binding problem cannot be solved easily. Today, it is considered as one of the key questions to brain understanding. To date, various solutions have been suggested to the binding problem including: (1) combination coding, (2) binding by synchrony, (3) population coding, (4) binding by attention, (5) binding by knowledge, expectation, and memory, (6) hardwired vs. on-demand binding, (7) bundling and binding of features, (8) the feature-integration theory of attention, and (9) synchronization through top-down processes. Each of those hypotheses addresses important aspects of binding. However, each of them also suffers from certain weak points and can never give a complete explanation. This article gives a brief overview of the so far suggested solutions of perceptual binding and then shows that those are actually not mutually exclusive but can complement each other. A computationally verified model is presented which shows that, most likely, the different described mechanisms of binding act (1) at different hierarchical levels and (2) in different stages of perceptual knowledge acquisition. The model furthermore considers and explains a number of inhibitory filter mechanisms that suppress the activation of inappropriate or currently irrelevant information.

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