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Keith A. May, Joshua A. Solomon; Connecting psychophysical performance to neuronal response properties I: Discrimination of suprathreshold stimuli. Journal of Vision 2015;15(6):8. doi: 10.1167/15.6.8.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
One of the major goals of sensory neuroscience is to understand how an organism's perceptual abilities relate to the underlying physiology. To this end, we derived equations to estimate the best possible psychophysical discrimination performance, given the properties of the neurons carrying the sensory code.We set up a generic sensory coding model with neurons characterized by their tuning function to the stimulus and the random process that generates spikes. The tuning function was a Gaussian function or a sigmoid (Naka-Rushton) function.Spikes were generated using Poisson spiking processes whose rates were modulated by a multiplicative, gamma-distributed gain signal that was shared between neurons. This doubly stochastic process generates realistic levels of neuronal variability and a realistic correlation structure within the population. Using Fisher information as a close approximation of the model's decoding precision, we derived equations to predict the model's discrimination performance from the neuronal parameters. We then verified the accuracy of our equations using Monte Carlo simulations. Our work has two major benefits. Firstly, we can quickly calculate the performance of physiologically plausible population-coding models by evaluating simple equations, which makes it easy to fit the model to psychophysical data. Secondly, the equations revealed some remarkably straightforward relationships between psychophysical discrimination performance and the parameters of the neuronal population, giving deep insights into the relationships between an organism's perceptual abilities and the properties of the neurons on which those abilities depend.
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