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Journal Article

Nonmonotonic noise tuning of BOLD fMRI signal to natural images in the visual cortex of the anesthetized monkey

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http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons84154

Rainer,  G
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons83787

Augath,  M
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons84262

Trinath,  T
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons84063

Logothetis,  NK
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Rainer, G., Augath, M., Trinath, T., & Logothetis, N. (2001). Nonmonotonic noise tuning of BOLD fMRI signal to natural images in the visual cortex of the anesthetized monkey. Current Biology, 11(11), 846-854. doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(01)00242-1.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-E268-D
Abstract
Background: The perceptual ability of humans and monkeys to identify objects in the presence of noise varies systematically and monotonically as a function of how much noise is introduced to the visual display. That is, it becomes more and more difficult to identify an object with increasing noise. Here we examine whether the blood oxygen level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging (BOLD fMRI) signal in anesthetized monkeys also shows such monotonic tuning. We employed parametric stimulus sets containing natural images and noise patterns matched for spatial frequency and intensity as well as intermediate images generated by interpolation between natural images and noise patterns. Anesthetized monkeys provide us with the unique opportunity to examine visual processing largely in the absence of top-down cognitive modulations and can thus provide an important baseline against which work with awake monkeys and humans can be compared. Results: We measured BOLD activity in occipital visual cortical areas as natural images and noise patterns, as well as intermediate interpolated patterns at three interpolation levels (25, 50, and 75) were presented to anesthetized monkeys in a block paradigm. We observed reliable visual activity in occipital visual areas including V1, V2, V3, V3A, and V4 as well as the fundus and anterior bank of the superior temporal sulcus (STS). Natural images consistently elicited higher BOLD levels than noise patterns. For intermediate images, however, we did not observe monotonic tuning. Instead, we observed a characteristic V-shaped noise-tuning function in primary and extrastriate visual areas. BOLD signals initially decreased as noise was added to the stimulus but then increased again as the pure noise pattern was approached. We present a simple model based on the number of activated neurons and the strength of activation per neuron that can account for these results. Conclusions: We show that, for our parametric stimulus set, BOLD activity varied nonmonotonically as a function of how much noise was added to the visual stimuli, unlike the perceptual ability of humans and monkeys to identify such stimuli. This raises important caveats for interpreting fMRI data and demonstrates the importance of assessing not only which neural populations are activated by contrasting conditions during an fMRI study, but also the strength of this activation. This becomes particularly important when using the BOLD signal to make inferences about the relationship between neural activity and behavior.