Journal of Computational Neuroscience

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 203-218

First online:

Contextual modulation of V1 receptive fields depends on their spatial symmetry

  • Tatyana O. SharpeeAffiliated withComputational Neurobiology Laboratory, The Salk Institute for Biological StudiesCenter for Theoretical Biological Physics, University of California, San Diego Email author 
  • , Jonathan D. VictorAffiliated withWeill Cornell Medical College

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The apparent receptive field characteristics of sensory neurons depend on the statistics of the stimulus ensemble—a nonlinear phenomenon often called contextual modulation. Since visual cortical receptive fields determined from simple stimuli typically do not predict responses to complex stimuli, understanding contextual modulation is crucial to understanding responses to natural scenes. To analyze contextual modulation, we examined how apparent receptive fields differ for two stimulus ensembles that are matched in first- and second-order statistics, but differ in their feature content: one ensemble is enriched in elongated contours. To identify systematic trends across the neural population, we used a multidimensional scaling method, the Procrustes transformation. We found that contextual modulation of receptive field components increases with their spatial extent. More surprisingly, we also found that odd-symmetric components change systematically, but even-symmetric components do not. This symmetry dependence suggests that contextual modulation is driven by oriented On/Off dyads, i.e., modulation of the strength of intracortically-generated signals.


Primary visual cortex Plasticity Linear–nonlinear model Reverse correlation