Neurons in sensory cortex integrate multiple influences to parse objects and support perception. Across multiple cortical areas, integration is characterized by two neuronal response properties: (1) surround suppression--modulatory contextual stimuli suppress responses to driving stimuli; and (2) "normalization"--responses to multiple driving stimuli add sublinearly. These depend on input strength: for weak driving stimuli, contextual influences facilitate or more weakly suppress and summation becomes linear or supralinear. Understanding the circuit operations underlying integration is critical to understanding cortical function and disease. We present a simple, general theory. A wealth of integrative properties, including the above, emerge robustly from four cortical circuit properties: (1) supralinear neuronal input/output functions; (2) sufficiently strong recurrent excitation; (3) feedback inhibition; and (4) simple spatial properties of intracortical connections. Integrative properties emerge dynamically as circuit properties, with excitatory and inhibitory neurons showing similar behaviors. In new recordings in visual cortex, we confirm key model predictions.
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