Information in the Neuronal Representation of Individual Stimuli in the Primate Temporal Visual Cortex

Abstract

To analyze the information provided about individual visual stimuliin the responses of single neurons in the primate temporal lobevisual cortex, neuronal responses to a set of 65 visual stimuli wererecorded in macaques performing a visual fixation task and analyzedusing information theoretical measures. The population of neuronsanalyzed responded primarily to faces. The stimuli included 23 facesand 42 nonface images of real-world scenes, so that the function ofthis brain region could be analyzed when it was processing relativelynatural scenes.

It was found that for the majority of the neurons significantamounts of information were reflected about which of several of the23 faces had been seen. Thus the representation was not local, forin a local representation almost all the information available canbe obtained when the single stimulus to which the neuron respondsbest is shown. It is shown that the information available about anyone stimulus depended on how different (for example, how manystandard deviations) the response to that stimulus was from theaverage response to all stimuli. This was the case for responsesbelow the average response as well as above.

It is shown that the fraction of information carried by the lowfiring rates of a cell was large—much larger than that carried bythe high firing rates. Part of the reason for this is that theprobability distribution of different firing rates is biased towardlow values (though with fewer very low values than would bepredicted by an exponential distribution). Another factor is thatthe variability of the response is large at intermediate and highfiring rates.

Another finding is that at short sampling intervals (such as 20 ms)the neurons code information efficiently, by effectively acting asbinary variables and behaving less noisily than would be expectedof a Poisson process.

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Rolls, E.T., Treves, A., Tovee, M.J. et al. Information in the Neuronal Representation of Individual Stimuli in the Primate Temporal Visual Cortex. J Comput Neurosci 4, 309–333 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008899916425

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  • coding
  • vision
  • inferior temporal visual cortex
  • distributed representation
  • grandmother cell