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Meeting Abstract

The Role of Internal Signals in Structuring V1 Population Activity


Ecker,  Alexander S
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Denfield, G., Ecker, A. S., & Tolias, A. S. (2015). The Role of Internal Signals in Structuring V1 Population Activity. In 25th Annual Rush and Helen Record Neuroscience Forum (pp. 31-31).

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0000-8D0F-2
Neuronal responses to repeated presentations of identical visual stimuli are variable. The cause of this variability is unknown, but it is commonly treated as noise and seen as an obstacle to understanding neuronal activity. We offer an alternative explanation: this variability is not noise but reflects, and is due to, computations internal to the brain. Internal signals such as cortical state or attention interact with sensory information processing in early sensory areas. However, little research has examined the effect of fluctuations in these signals on neuronal responses, leaving a number of uncontrolled parameters that may contribute to neuronal variability. One such variable is attention. We hypothesize that fluctuations in attentional signals contribute to neuronal response variability and that controlling for such fluctuations will reduce this variability. To study this interaction, we use multi-electrode recordings with laminar probes in primary visual cortex of macaques while subjects perform a cued-spatial attention, change-detection task. We induce varying degrees of fluctuation in the subject’s attentional signal by changing whether the subject must attend to one stimulus location while ignoring another, or attempt to attend to both locations simultaneously. We demonstrate that attention increases stimulusevoked firing rates and gain-modulates the tuning curves of V1 neurons in a manner that is consistent with results from higher order areas. Future experiments will examine the effect of attentional fluctuations on neuronal response variability and interneuronal correlations as well as the laminar profile of these effects. Under this hypothesis, this variability can aid, rather than hinder, our understanding of brain function.