Spatial organization of receptive fields of V1 neurons of alert monkeys: comparison with responses to gratings.


We studied the spatial organization of receptive fields and the responses to gratings of neurons in parafoveal V1 of alert monkeys. Activating regions (ARs) of 228 cells were mapped with increment and decrement bars while compensating for fixational eye movements. For cells with two or more ARs, the overlap between ARs responsive to increments (INC) and ARs responsive to decrements (DEC) was characterized by a quantitative overlap index (OI). The distribution of overlap indices was bimodal. The larger group (78% of cells) was composed of complex cells with strongly overlapping ARs (OI >/= 0.5). The smaller group (14%) was composed of simple cells with minimal spatial overlap of ARs (OI </= 0.3). Simple cells were preferentially located in layers dominated by the magnocellular pathway. A third group of neurons, the monocontrast cells (8%), responded only to one sign of contrast and had more sustained responses to flashed stimuli than other cells. One hundred fourteen neurons were also studied with drifting sinusoidal gratings of various spatial frequencies and window widths. For complex cells, the relative modulation (RM, the ratio of the 1st harmonic to the mean firing rate), ranged from 0.6 +/- 0.4 to 1.1 +/- 0.5 (mean +/- SD), depending on the stimulus conditions and the mode of correction for eye movements. RM was not correlated with the degree of overlap of ARs, indicating that the spatial organization of receptive fields cannot reliably be predicted from RM values. In fact, a subset of complex cells had RM > 1, the traditional criterion for identifying simple cells. However, unlike simple cells, even those complex cells with high RM could exhibit diverse nonlinear responses when the spatial frequency or window size was changed. Furthermore, the responses of complex cells to counterphase gratings were predominantly nonlinear even harmonics. These results show that RM is not a robust test of linearity. Our results indicate that complex cells are the most frequently encountered neurons in primate V1, and their behavior needs to receive more emphasis in models of visual function.

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