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Eur J Neurosci. 2004 Sep;20(5):1391-401.

Directed interactions between visual areas and their role in processing image structure and expectancy.

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Institute of Neuroinformatics, University Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057, Switzerland.


During sensory processing, cortical areas continuously exchange information in different directions along the hierarchy. The functional role of such interactions, however, has been the subject of various proposals. Here, we investigate the role of bottom-up and top-down interactions in processing stimulus structure and their relation to expected events. Applying multivariate autoregressive methods to local field potentials recorded in alert cats, we quantify directed interactions between primary (A17/18) and higher (A21) visual areas. A trial-by-trial analysis yields the following findings. To assess the role of interareal interactions in processing stimulus structure, we recorded in naïve animals during stimulation with natural movies and pink noise stimuli. The overall interactions decrease compared with baseline for both stimuli. To investigate whether forthcoming events modulate interactions, we recorded in trained animals viewing two stimuli, one of which had been associated with a reward. Several results support such modulations. First, the interactions increase compared with baseline and this increase is not observed in a context where food was not delivered. Second, these stimuli have a differential effect on top-down and bottom-up components. This difference is emphasized during the stimulus presentation and is maximal shortly before the possible reward. Furthermore, a spectral decomposition of the interactions shows that this asymmetry is most dominant in the gamma frequency range. Concluding, these results support the notion that interareal interactions are more related to an expectancy state rather than to processing of stimulus structure.

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