In this paper, we propose a novel adversarial defence mechanism for image classification -- CARSO -- inspired by cues from cognitive neuroscience. The method is synergistically complementary to adversarial training and relies on knowledge of the internal representation of the attacked classifier. Exploiting a generative model for adversarial purification, conditioned on such representation, it samples reconstructions of inputs to be finally classified. Experimental evaluation by a well-established benchmark of varied, strong adaptive attacks, across diverse image datasets and classifier architectures, shows that CARSO is able to defend the classifier significantly better than state-of-the-art adversarial training alone -- with a tolerable clean accuracy toll. Furthermore, the defensive architecture succeeds in effectively shielding itself from unforeseen threats, and end-to-end attacks adapted to fool stochastic defences. Code and pre-trained models are available at https://github.com/emaballarin/CARSO .