Grandmother cells and the distinction between local and distributed representation

Max Coltheart*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    A grandmother cell is a neural or cognitive unit that selectively responds to just one particular physical object (one’s maternal grandmother, for example, or one’s own right hand, or one’s own car). Grandmother cells should be distinguished from gnostic units, which are neural or cognitive units that respond selectively to all members of categories of physical objects (all elderly ladies, for example, or all hands, or all cars). Both grandmother cells and gnostic units count as local representations, but not all local representations count as grandmother cells.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)350-358
    Number of pages9
    JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2017


    • distributed representation
    • gnostic unit
    • Grandmother cell
    • local representation
    • visual object recognition


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