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Dynamics of spatial summation in primary visual cortex of alert monkeys

  • Mitesh K. Kapadia
  • Gerald Westheimer
  • Charles D. Gilbert
The National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date
Oct 12, 1999


One of the fundamental tasks of the visual cortex is to integrate input from different parts of the retina, parsing an image into contours and surfaces, and then assembling these features into coherent representations of objects. To examine the role of the primary visual cortex in the integration of visual information, we measured the response properties of neurons under different stimulus conditions. Surprisingly, we found that even the most conventional measures of receptive field (RF) size were not fixed, but could vary depending on stimulus contrast and foreground–background relationships. On average, the length of the excitatory RF was 4-fold greater for a low-contrast stimulus than for a stimulus at high contrast. Embedding a high-contrast stimulus in a textured background tended to suppress neuronal responses and produced an enlargement in RF size similar to that observed by decreasing the contrast of an isolated stimulus. The results show that RF dimensions are regulated in a dynamic manner that depends both on local stimulus characteristics, such as contrast, and on global relationships between a stimulus and its surroundings.

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