Some neurons in early visual cortex are highly selective for the position of oriented edges in their receptive fields (simple cells), whereas others are largely position insensitive (complex cells). These characteristics are reflected in their sensitivity to the spatial phase of moving sine-wave gratings: simple cell responses oscillate at the fundamental frequency of the stimulus, whereas this is less so for complex cells. In primates, when assessed at high stimulus contrast, simple cells and complex cells are roughly equally represented in the first visual cortical area, V1, whereas in the second visual area, V2, the majority of cells are complex. Recent evidence has shown that phase sensitivity of complex cells is contrast dependent. This has led to speculation that reduced contrast may lead to changes in the spatial structure of receptive fields, perhaps due to changes in how feedforward and recurrent signals interact. Given the substantial interconnections between V1 and V2 and recent evidence for the emergence of unique functional capacity in V2, we assess the relationship between contrast and phase sensitivity in the two brain regions. We show that a substantial proportion of complex cells in macaque V1 exhibit significant increases in phase sensitivity at low contrast, whereas this is rarely observed in V2. Our results support a degree of hierarchical processing from V1 to V2 with the differences possibly relating to the fact that V1 combines both subcortical and cortical input, whereas V2 receives input purely from cortical circuits.
Keywords: macaque cortex; visual system.
Copyright © 2015 the American Physiological Society.