Robust temporal coding of contrast by V1 neurons for transient but not for steady-state stimuli

J Neurosci. 1998 Aug 15;18(16):6583-98. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.18-16-06583.1998.


We show that spike timing adds to the information content of spike trains for transiently presented stimuli but not for comparable steady-state stimuli, even if the latter elicit transient responses. Contrast responses of 22 single neurons in macaque V1 to periodic presentation of steady-state stimuli (drifting sinusoidal gratings) and transient stimuli (drifting edges) of optimal spatiotemporal parameters were recorded extracellularly. The responses were analyzed for contrast-dependent clustering in spaces determined by metrics sensitive to the temporal structure of spike trains. Two types of metrics, cost-based spike time metrics and metrics based on Fourier harmonics of the response, were used. With both families of metrics, temporal coding of contrast is lacking in responses to drifting sinusoidal gratings of most (simple and complex) V1 neurons. However, two-thirds of all neurons, mostly complex cells, displayed significant temporal coding of contrast for edge stimuli. The Fourier metrics indicated that different response harmonics are partially independent, and their combined use increases information about transient stimuli. Our results demonstrate the importance of stimulus transience for temporal coding. This finding is significant for natural vision because moving edges, which are present in moving object boundaries, and saccades induce transients. We think that an abrupt change in the adapted state of the local visual circuitry triggers the temporal structuring of spike trains in V1 neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology*
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Thermosensing / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*