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Short answer Neurons were (and still are) often identified based on their histological features (e.g., by Cajal). In turn, the structural hallmarks of neurons are often related to their specific functions. Background The question is broad and difficult to answer without restricting to some example types of neurons. As you say, about 10,000 types of neurons ...


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The body of work on this topic huge, so I'll just try to mention a few things. On the cognitive level, one possible answer is salience (also see here for an article specific to the visual system). You can think of this (in a somewhat circular answer) as the thing that makes certain stimuli stand out from others. Salient stimuli capture bottom-up attention. ...



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