Primary visual cortex represents the difference between past and present

Cereb Cortex. 2015 Jun;25(6):1427-40. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht318. Epub 2013 Dec 15.


The visual system is confronted with rapidly changing stimuli in everyday life. It is not well understood how information in such a stream of input is updated within the brain. We performed voltage-sensitive dye imaging across the primary visual cortex (V1) to capture responses to sequences of natural scene contours. We presented vertically and horizontally filtered natural images, and their superpositions, at 10 or 33 Hz. At low frequency, the encoding was found to represent not the currently presented images, but differences in orientation between consecutive images. This was in sharp contrast to more rapid sequences for which we found an ongoing representation of current input, consistent with earlier studies. Our finding that for slower image sequences, V1 does no longer report actual features but represents their relative difference in time counteracts the view that the first cortical processing stage must always transfer complete information. Instead, we show its capacities for change detection with a new emphasis on the role of automatic computation evolving in the 100-ms range, inevitably affecting information transmission further downstream.

Keywords: early visual cortex; information transmission; natural image processing; orientation difference detection; predictive coding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychophysics
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology
  • Voltage-Sensitive Dye Imaging