Nonsensory variables strongly influence neuronal activity in the adult mouse primary visual cortex. Neuronal responses to visual stimuli are modulated by behavioural state, such as arousal and motor activity, and are shaped by experience. This dynamic process leads to neural representations in the visual cortex that reflect stimulus familiarity, expectations of reward and object location, and mismatch between self-motion and visual-flow. The recent development of genetic tools and recording techniques in awake behaving mice has enabled the investigation of the circuit mechanisms underlying state-dependent and experience-dependent neuronal representations in primary visual cortex. These neuronal circuits involve neuromodulatory, top-down cortico-cortical and thalamocortical pathways. The functions of nonsensory signals at this early stage of visual information processing are now beginning to be unravelled.
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