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J Neurophysiol. 2014 Sep 15;112(6):1291-306. doi: 10.1152/jn.00700.2013. Epub 2014 Jun 3.

Normalization of neuronal responses in cortical area MT across signal strengths and motion directions.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin.
Department of Neuroscience, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin


Multiple visual stimuli are common in natural scenes, yet it remains unclear how multiple stimuli interact to influence neuronal responses. We investigated this question by manipulating relative signal strengths of two stimuli moving simultaneously within the receptive fields (RFs) of neurons in the extrastriate middle temporal (MT) cortex. Visual stimuli were overlapping random-dot patterns moving in two directions separated by 90°. We first varied the motion coherence of each random-dot pattern and characterized, across the direction tuning curve, the relationship between neuronal responses elicited by bidirectional stimuli and by the constituent motion components. The tuning curve for bidirectional stimuli showed response normalization and can be accounted for by a weighted sum of the responses to the motion components. Allowing nonlinear, multiplicative interaction between the two component responses significantly improved the data fit for some neurons, and the interaction mainly had a suppressive effect on the neuronal response. The weighting of the component responses was not fixed but dependent on relative signal strengths. When two stimulus components moved at different coherence levels, the response weight for the higher-coherence component was significantly greater than that for the lower-coherence component. We also varied relative luminance levels of two coherently moving stimuli and found that MT response weight for the higher-luminance component was also greater. These results suggest that competition between multiple stimuli within a neuron's RF depends on relative signal strengths of the stimuli and that multiplicative nonlinearity may play an important role in shaping the response tuning for multiple stimuli.


divisive normalization; luminance contrast; motion coherence; neural encoding; nonlinear interaction

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