Coding for stimulus velocity by temporal patterning of spike discharges in visual cells of cat superior colliculus

Vision Res. 1993 Jul;33(11):1451-75. doi: 10.1016/0042-6989(93)90139-n.


Statistical analyses, performed on extracellularly recorded spike trains generated by 69 single motion sensitive visual cells in the intermediate layers of superior colliculi of pretrigeminal cat preparations, revealed that--even in the unstimulated condition (38/69)--most neuronal spike discharge patterns tended to switch between two stochastically distinct states, in the form of rapidly alternating "bursting" (high frequency) and "resting" (low frequency) episodes. The numbers of consecutive interspike intervals within a given state were, as a rule, independent integer-valued random variables with discrete probability distributions, in essential agreement with the semi-Markov model proposed by Ekholm and Hyvärinen [(1970) Biophysical Journal, 10, 773-796]. The introduction of visual stimuli (47/69) moving with velocities of 2-160 deg/sec caused systematic and reproducible changes in the ratio of bursting to resting activities, decreases in overall discharge variability, and increases in signal transinformation flow. Moreover, with one group of stimulated cells (28/47), increasing stimulus velocity caused increasingly precise ("stimulus-forced") synchronization of bursting episodes with specific phases of stimulus movement; while for a smaller group (12/47), stimulus-related alternations between bursting and resting states assumed the form of semi-rhythmical burst discharges within the characteristic 60-80 Hz "gamma oscillation" range ("stimulus-induced" synchronization). For a minority of cells (7/47), switching between bursting and resting states--although characteristically modified by stimulus velocity--remained largely desynchronized with all phases of stimulus transit. It was argued that such temporal patterns of discharge may constitute elements of a candidate "distribution" code for movement detection by the cat visual system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Female
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Time Factors