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Matteo Carandini, Frank Sengpiel; Contrast invariance of functional maps in cat primary visual cortex. Journal of Vision 2004;4(3):1. doi: 10.1167/4.3.1.
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© 2016 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
Neurons in cat primary visual cortex (V1) are clustered according to their preference for stimulus position, orientation, spatial frequency, and eye of presentation, thereby giving rise to functional maps. It is not known, however, whether a similar arrangement is present for stimulus contrast. Neurons in cat V1 vary considerably in their contrast responses, and might be clustered in a systematic fashion in this respect. Additionally, stimulus contrast might affect other functional maps. For example, there has been debate over whether the contrast threshold of neurons in cytochrome oxidase blobs is lower than elsewhere. Here we have imaged intrinsic signals to measure orientation maps in cat V1 at a range of contrast levels. We determined, on a pixel-by-pixel basis, contrast-response functions and orientation tuning curves. The fit parameters describing contrast responses were more or less uniform: We found no regions where neurons have lower contrast threshold than elsewhere. If such regions do exist, their functional maps must be substantially weaker than maps of orientation preference. Moreover, we found that contrast has no impact on maps of orientation preference: The orientation selectivity of each pixel is invariant with stimulus contrast. The contrast invariance that we demonstrate at the level of maps is well known at the level of single neurons. It suggests that neurons contributing to a pixel response generally have similar orientation preferences or similar contrast responses. The latter explanation is likely to hold in pinwheel centers, where preferred orientation of nearby neurons can differ markedly. In summary, our data suggest that contrast is represented uniformly over the surface of cat V1, and changes in contrast do not affect maps of orientation preference.
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