September 2011
Volume 11, Issue 11
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2011
A model for the enhancement and multi-modal integration of multi-spectral information in Rattlesnake
Author Affiliations
  • Vincent Billock
    National Research Council at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, USA
  • Brian Tsou
    U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, USA
Journal of Vision September 2011, Vol.11, 790. doi:
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      Vincent Billock, Brian Tsou; A model for the enhancement and multi-modal integration of multi-spectral information in Rattlesnake. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):790.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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We applied oscillatory sensory binding theory to the enhancement and integration of multi-spectral information. Coupled neural oscillators are often used to understand visual binding problems, but have barely been applied to other kinds of sensory integration. Under some conditions, oscillatory coupling of neurons can result in synchronized enhancement of the coupled neural responses. A similar enhancement or amplification has been seen in a variety of multispectral and multisensory systems (including those of humans), motivating our use of coupled oscillator models. Here we applied Hugh Wilson's (J. Theo. Biol., 1999) model of excitatory-coupled Class I neurons (which can fire at very low spike rates) to the integration of infrared and visible responses in pit vipers. In addition to its eyes, the rattlesnake has facial pits (rich in heat-gated ion channels) which transduce infrared information. In rattlesnake optic tectum there are neurons that respond only to infrared or only to visual stimulation in isolation, but which respond with increased firing rates when both stimuli are present. We model these cells (from Newman & Hartline, Science, 1981) as members of a coupled neural oscillator network; they are each driven by one kind of sensory information, but when both are active, their spike trains synchronize at a firing rate higher than either alone. If both coupled neurons feed their spike trains into a third common neuron, this cell can behave like rattlesnake “enhanced OR” cells, which respond to either stimulus but with an enhanced rate when both are present. Similarly, an inhibitory-coupled neural oscillator network models related classes of rattlesnake neurons that exhibit sub-additivity. Since both enhanced single modality and “enhanced OR”-like units are found in superior colliculus of many animals, for many pairs of sensory modalities, this model may be generally applicable to multisensory integration.

Funded by a NRC/AFOSR Senior Research Award to V. Billock. 

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