Spectral characteristics of phase sensitivity and discharge rate of neurons in the ascending tectofugal visual system

PLoS One. 2014 Aug 1;9(8):e103557. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103557. eCollection 2014.


Drifting gratings can modulate the activity of visual neurons at the temporal frequency of the stimulus. In order to characterize the temporal frequency modulation in the cat's ascending tectofugal visual system, we recorded the activity of single neurons in the superior colliculus, the suprageniculate nucleus, and the anterior ectosylvian cortex during visual stimulation with drifting sine-wave gratings. In response to such stimuli, neurons in each structure showed an increase in firing rate and/or oscillatory modulated firing at the temporal frequency of the stimulus (phase sensitivity). To obtain a more complete characterization of the neural responses in spatiotemporal frequency domain, we analyzed the mean firing rate and the strength of the oscillatory modulations measured by the standardized Fourier component of the response at the temporal frequency of the stimulus. We show that the spatiotemporal stimulus parameters that elicit maximal oscillations often differ from those that elicit a maximal discharge rate. Furthermore, the temporal modulation and discharge-rate spectral receptive fields often do not overlap, suggesting that the detection range for visual stimuli provided jointly by modulated and unmodulated response components is larger than the range provided by a one response component.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Female
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*

Grant support

This work was supported by Hungarian Brain Research Program KTIA 13 NAP-A-I/15 grant, OTKA Hungary Grant K83810, Polish National Science Centre Grant N N303 820640, Polish-Hungarian bilateral academic grants for years (2011-2016) and EU FP7 Project, GA No 264173 (Bio-Imagine). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.