From my understanding, the neocortex performs both perception and imagination/planning within the same hierarchical structure. During perception, an area of the neocortex receives current input from sensors and decides on motor actions to execute. During imagination, an area replays previous inputs, or operates on potential future inputs for planning. Actions don't actually get executed during planning.
On the one hand, it seems like both perception and planning are in part executed by the same neural structures. It seems intuitive that the same abstraction mechanism needs to be reused to arrive at the same high-level representations. On the other hand, it seems like the brain still needs to distinguish between them, for example to not executed imagined actions.
The two processes certainly affect each other. Perceiving a difficult situation can cause planning, perception can cause an association to imagine another situation, or imagination sets filters on what we perceive. Are there any explanations if and how the neocortex implements both perception and imagination/planning within the same structures?
- Are perception and imagination states that the neocortex areas switch between, or can they be carried out simultaneously? Can multiple areas be involved in planning at the same time?
- When an area sends information to another one, how does it signal whether this was perceived or imagined information?
- Is there less of a distinction between the two than I'm thinking?