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Neuron. 2005 Apr 21;46(2):333-46.

Does neuronal synchrony underlie visual feature grouping?

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Previous research suggests that synchronous neural activity underlies perceptual grouping of visual image features. The generality of this mechanism is unclear, however, as previous studies have focused on pairs of neurons with overlapping or collinear receptive fields. By sampling more broadly and employing stimuli that contain partially occluded objects, we have conducted a more incisive test of the binding by synchrony hypothesis in area MT. We find that synchrony in spiking activity shows little dependence on feature grouping, whereas gamma band synchrony in field potentials can be significantly stronger when features are grouped. However, these changes in gamma band synchrony are small relative to the variability of synchrony across recording sites and do not provide a robust population signal for feature grouping. Moreover, these effects are reduced when stimulus differences nearby the receptive fields are eliminated using partial occlusion. Our findings suggest that synchrony does not constitute a general mechanism of visual feature binding.

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