Encoding of natural scene movies by tonic and burst spikes in the lateral geniculate nucleus

J Neurosci. 2004 Nov 24;24(47):10731-40. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3059-04.2004.


The role of the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of the thalamus in visual encoding remains an open question. Here, we characterize the function of tonic and burst spikes in cat LGN X-cells in signaling features of natural stimuli. A significant increase in bursting was observed during natural stimulation (relative to white noise stimulation) and was linked to the strong correlation structure of the natural scene movies. Burst responses were triggered by specific stimulus events consisting of a prolonged inhibitory stimulus, followed by an excitatory stimulus, such as the movement of an object into the receptive field. LGN responses to natural scene movies were predicted using an integrate-and-fire (IF) framework and compared with experimentally observed responses. The standard IF model successfully predicted LGN responses to natural scene movies during tonic firing, indicating a linear relationship between stimulus and response. However, the IF model typically underpredicted the LGN response during periods of bursting, indicating a nonlinear amplification of the stimulus in the actual response. The addition of a burst mechanism to the IF model was necessary to accurately predict the entire LGN response. These results suggest that LGN bursts are an important part of the neural code, providing a nonlinear amplification of stimulus features that are typical of the natural environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Geniculate Bodies / cytology
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motion Pictures
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Visual Perception / physiology*