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Object perception in natural scenes: encoding by inferior temporal cortex simultaneously recorded neurons


Aggelopoulos,  NC
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Aggelopoulos, N., Franco, L., & Rolls, E. (2005). Object perception in natural scenes: encoding by inferior temporal cortex simultaneously recorded neurons. Journal of Neurophysiology, 93(3), 1342-1357. doi:10.​1152/​jn.​00553.​2004.

The firing of inferior temporal cortex neurons is tuned to objects and faces, and in a complex scene, their receptive fields are reduced to become similar to the size of an object being fixated. These two properties may underlie how objects in scenes are encoded. An alternative hypothesis suggests that visual perception requires the binding of features of the visual target through spike synchrony in a neuronal assembly. To examine possible contributions of firing synchrony of inferior temporal neurons, we made simultaneous recordings of the activity of several neurons while macaques performed a visual discrimination task. The stimuli were presented in either plain or complex backgrounds. The encoding of information of neurons was analyzed using a decoding algorithm. Ninety-four percent to 99 of the total information was available in the firing rate spike counts, and the contribution of spike timing calculated as stimulus-dependent synchronization (SDS) added only 1-6 of information to the total that was independent of the spike counts in the complex background. Similar results were obtained in the plain background. The quantitatively small contribution of spike timing to the overall information available in spike patterns suggests that information encoding about which stimulus was shown by inferior temporal neurons is achieved mainly by rate coding. Furthermore, it was shown that there was little redundancy (6) between the information provided by the spike counts of the simultaneously recorded neurons, making spike counts an efficient population code with a high encoding capacity.