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J Neurosci. 2005 Nov 16;25(46):10577-97.

Do we know what the early visual system does?

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Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, San Francisco, California 94115, USA.


We can claim that we know what the visual system does once we can predict neural responses to arbitrary stimuli, including those seen in nature. In the early visual system, models based on one or more linear receptive fields hold promise to achieve this goal as long as the models include nonlinear mechanisms that control responsiveness, based on stimulus context and history, and take into account the nonlinearity of spike generation. These linear and nonlinear mechanisms might be the only essential determinants of the response, or alternatively, there may be additional fundamental determinants yet to be identified. Research is progressing with the goals of defining a single "standard model" for each stage of the visual pathway and testing the predictive power of these models on the responses to movies of natural scenes. These predictive models represent, at a given stage of the visual pathway, a compact description of visual computation. They would be an invaluable guide for understanding the underlying biophysical and anatomical mechanisms and relating neural responses to visual perception.

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