Background: Our visual system enables us to recognize visual objects across a wide range of spatial scales. The neural mechanisms underlying these abilities are still poorly understood. Size- or scale-independent representation of visual objects might be supported by processing in primary visual cortex (V1). Neurons in V1 are selective for spatial frequency and thus represent visual information in specific spatial wavebands. We tested whether different receptive field properties of neurons in V1 scale with preferred spatial wavelength. Specifically, we investigated the size of the area that enhances responses, i.e., the grating summation field, the size of the inhibitory surround, and the distance dependence of signal coupling, i.e., the linking field.
Results: We found that the sizes of both grating summation field and inhibitory surround increase with preferred spatial wavelength. For the summation field this increase, however, is not strictly linear. No evidence was found that size of the linking field depends on preferred spatial wavelength.
Conclusion: Our data show that some receptive field properties are related to preferred spatial wavelength. This speaks in favor of the hypothesis that processing in V1 supports scale-invariant aspects of visual performance. However, not all properties of receptive fields in V1 scale with preferred spatial wavelength. Spatial-wavelength independence of the linking field implies a constant spatial range of signal coupling between neurons with different preferred spatial wavelengths. This might be important for encoding extended broad-band visual features such as edges.