The linearity and selectivity of neuronal responses in awake visual cortex

J Vis. 2009 Aug 25;9(9):12.1-17. doi: 10.1167/9.9.12.


Neurons in primary visual cortex (V1) are frequently classified based on their response linearity: the extent to which their visual responses to drifting gratings resemble a linear replica of the stimulus. This classification is supported by the finding that response linearity is bimodally distributed across neurons in area V1 of anesthetized animals. However, recent studies suggest that such bimodal distribution may not reflect two neuronal types but a nonlinear relationship between the membrane potential and the spike output. A main limitation of these previous studies is that they measured response linearity in anesthetized animals, where the distance between the neuronal membrane potential and the spike threshold is artificially increased by anesthesia. Here, we measured V1 response linearity in the awake brain and its correlation with the neuronal spontaneous firing rate, which is related to the distance between membrane potential and threshold. Our results demonstrate that response linearity is bimodally distributed in awake V1 but that it is poorly correlated with spontaneous firing rate. In contrast, the spontaneous firing rate is best correlated to the response selectivity and response latency to stimuli.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Normal Distribution
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Wakefulness / physiology*