Unsupervised experience with temporal continuity of the visual environment is causally involved in the development of V1 complex cells

Sci Adv. 2020 May 29;6(22):eaba3742. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aba3742. eCollection 2020 May.


Unsupervised adaptation to the spatiotemporal statistics of visual experience is a key computational principle that has long been assumed to govern postnatal development of visual cortical tuning, including orientation selectivity of simple cells and position tolerance of complex cells in primary visual cortex (V1). Yet, causal empirical evidence supporting this hypothesis is scant. Here, we show that degrading the temporal continuity of visual experience during early postnatal life leads to a sizable reduction of the number of complex cells and to an impairment of their functional properties while fully sparing the development of simple cells. This causally implicates adaptation to the temporal structure of the visual input in the development of transformation tolerance but not of shape tuning, thus tightly constraining computational models of unsupervised cortical learning.