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J Physiol. 2007 Oct 15;584(Pt 2):451-62. Epub 2007 Aug 16.

Influence of adapting speed on speed and contrast coding in the primary visual cortex of the cat.

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Visual Sciences, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.


Adaptation is a ubiquitous property of the visual system. Adaptation often improves the ability to discriminate between stimuli and increases the operating range of the system, but is also associated with a reduced ability to veridically code stimulus attributes. Adaptation to luminance levels, contrast, orientation, direction and spatial frequency has been studied extensively, but knowledge about adaptation to image speed is less well understood. Here we examined how the speed tuning of neurons in cat primary visual cortex was altered after adaptation to speeds that were slow, optimal, or fast relative to each neuron's speed response function. We found that the preferred speed (defined as the speed eliciting the peak firing rate) of the neurons following adaptation was dependent on the speed at which they were adapted. At the population level cells showed decreases in preferred speed following adaptation to speeds at or above the non-adapted speed, but the preferred speed did not change following adaptation to speeds lower than the non-adapted peak. Almost all cells showed response gain control (reductions in absolute firing capacity) following speed adaptation. We also investigated the speed dependence of contrast adaptation and found that most cells showed contrast gain control (rightward shifts of their contrast response functions) and response gain control following adaptation at any speed. We conclude that contrast adaptation may produce the response gain control associated with speed adaptation, but shifts in preferred speed require an additional level of processing beyond contrast adaptation. A simple model is presented that is able to capture most of the findings.

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