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J Neurosci. 2010 Sep 22;30(38):12619-31. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0815-10.2010.

Neuronal responses during and after the presentation of static visual stimuli in macaque primary visual cortex.

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Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3PT, United Kingdom.


Viewing static visual scenes for several seconds or longer can induce a wide variety of striking percepts, including negative afterimages, fading, and motion aftereffects. To characterize the neuronal bases of such phenomena and elucidate functional circuitry in the visual system, we recorded responses of neurons in primary visual cortex (V1) of anesthetized macaques during and after the presentation of prolonged static visual stimuli. We found that 72% of cells generated significant after-responses (ARs) that outlasted classical off-transients after the cessation of stimuli, and AR amplitude grew with stimulus duration. After the longest stimuli tested (32 s), the amplitude and the time course of the AR were on average comparable to, and correlated with, those of the maintained response evoked while stimuli were present. These observations generally held regardless of cell class: simple, complex, direction selective (DS) or non-DS. The average decay time constant of the AR for orientation-tuned cells was 0.65 s. This is strikingly shorter than time constants observed in the lateral geniculate nucleus, which were on the order of tens of seconds. Cells in V1 that lacked orientation tuning displayed an intermediate time course, with a mean time constant of 4.3 s. These results are consistent with a multistage model in which cells at successive stages adapt to their inputs with progressively shorter time constants. Our findings suggest that the perceptual phenomena of fading and afterimages are shaped by both cortical and subcortical dynamics and provide a physiological framework for the interpretation of recent and long-standing psychophysical observations.

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