Mountcastle's interest in cognition, specifically perception, led him to guide his laboratory to studies that linked perception and neural responses in the 1960s. Although there were several notable works from his laboratory, the highest profile early paper appeared in 1968, a study explaining the neural basis of Flutter and vibration by the action of peripheral mechanoreceptors.
In 1978 Mountcastle proposed that all parts of the neocortex operate through a common principle, with the cortical column being the unit of computation.
Mountcastle's devotion to studies of single unit neural coding evolved through his leadership in the Bard Laboratories of Neurophysiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, which for many years, was the only institute in the world devoted to this sub-field. Its work is continued today in the Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute. Mountcastle died in Baltimore at the age of 96 in January 2015.
David Hubel in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech said Mountcastle's "discovery of columns in the somatosensory cortex was surely the single most important contribution to the understanding of cerebral cortex since Ramón y Cajal".
^Mountcastle, V. B. (1957). "Modality and topographic properties of single neurons of cat's somatic sensory cortex". Journal of Neurophysiology. 20 (4): 408–34. doi:10.1152/jn.19126.96.36.1998. PMID13439410.
^Martin, Kevan (2015). "Vernon B. Mountcastle (1918–2015) Discoverer of the repeating organization of neurons in the mammalian cortex". Nature. 518 (7539): 304. doi:10.1038/518304a. PMID25693556.
^Vernon Mountcastle (1978), "An Organizing Principle for Cerebral Function: The Unit Model and the Distributed System", The Mindful Brain (Gerald M. Edelman and Vernon B. Mountcastle, eds.) Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
^Talbot, W. H.; Darian-Smith, I; Kornhuber, H. H.; Mountcastle, V. B. (1968). "The sense of flutter-vibration: Comparison of the human capacity with response patterns of mechanoreceptive afferents from the monkey hand". Journal of Neurophysiology. 31 (2): 301–34. doi:10.1152/jn.19188.8.131.521. PMID4972033.
^Mountcastle, V. B. (1978), "An Organizing Principle for Cerebral Function: The Unit Model and the Distributed System", in Gerald M. Edelman and Vernon B. Mountcastle (eds.), The Mindful Brain, MIT PressCS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)