Adaptive coding of visual information in neural populations

Nature. 2008 Mar 13;452(7184):220-4. doi: 10.1038/nature06563.


Our perception of the environment relies on the capacity of neural networks to adapt rapidly to changes in incoming stimuli. It is increasingly being realized that the neural code is adaptive, that is, sensory neurons change their responses and selectivity in a dynamic manner to match the changes in input stimuli. Understanding how rapid exposure, or adaptation, to a stimulus of fixed structure changes information processing by cortical networks is essential for understanding the relationship between sensory coding and behaviour. Physiological investigations of adaptation have contributed greatly to our understanding of how individual sensory neurons change their responses to influence stimulus coding, yet whether and how adaptation affects information coding in neural populations is unknown. Here we examine how brief adaptation (on the timescale of visual fixation) influences the structure of interneuronal correlations and the accuracy of population coding in the macaque (Macaca mulatta) primary visual cortex (V1). We find that brief adaptation to a stimulus of fixed structure reorganizes the distribution of correlations across the entire network by selectively reducing their mean and variability. The post-adaptation changes in neuronal correlations are associated with specific, stimulus-dependent changes in the efficiency of the population code, and are consistent with changes in perceptual performance after adaptation. Our results have implications beyond the predictions of current theories of sensory coding, suggesting that brief adaptation improves the accuracy of population coding to optimize neuronal performance during natural viewing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Electrophysiology
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Interneurons / metabolism
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / cytology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*