Neural coding of image structure and contrast polarity of Cartesian, hyperbolic, and polar gratings in the primary and secondary visual cortex of the tree shrew

J Neurophysiol. 2016 Apr;115(4):2000-13. doi: 10.1152/jn.01000.2015. Epub 2016 Feb 3.


We comprehensively characterize spiking and visual evoked potential (VEP) activity in tree shrew V1 and V2 using Cartesian, hyperbolic, and polar gratings. Neural selectivity to structure of Cartesian gratings was higher than other grating classes in both visual areas. From V1 to V2, structure selectivity of spiking activity increased, whereas corresponding VEP values tended to decrease, suggesting that single-neuron coding of Cartesian grating attributes improved while the cortical columnar organization of these neurons became less precise from V1 to V2. We observed that neurons in V2 generally exhibited similar selectivity for polar and Cartesian gratings, suggesting that structure of polar-like stimuli might be encoded as early as in V2. This hypothesis is supported by the preference shift from V1 to V2 toward polar gratings of higher spatial frequency, consistent with the notion that V2 neurons encode visual scene borders and contours. Neural sensitivity to modulations of polarity of hyperbolic gratings was highest among all grating classes and closely related to the visual receptive field (RF) organization of ON- and OFF-dominated subregions. We show that spatial RF reconstructions depend strongly on grating class, suggesting that intracortical contributions to RF structure are strongest for Cartesian and polar gratings. Hyperbolic gratings tend to recruit least cortical elaboration such that the RF maps are similar to those generated by sparse noise, which most closely approximate feedforward inputs. Our findings complement previous literature in primates, rodents, and carnivores and highlight novel aspects of shape representation and coding occurring in mammalian early visual cortex.

Keywords: Tupaia; non-Cartesian gratings; receptive field nonlinearity; surround suppression; visual evoked potentials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Contrast Sensitivity*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Tupaia
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Fields