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J Vis. 2015;15(6):9. doi: 10.1167/15.6.9.

Connecting psychophysical performance to neuronal response properties II: Contrast decoding and detection.


The purpose of this article is to provide mathematical insights into the results of some Monte Carlo simulations published by Tolhurst and colleagues (Clatworthy, Chirimuuta, Lauritzen, & Tolhurst, 2003; Chirimuuta & Tolhurst, 2005a). In these simulations, the contrast of a visual stimulus was encoded by a model spiking neuron or a set of such neurons. The mean spike count of each neuron was given by a sigmoidal function of contrast, the Naka-Rushton function. The actual number of spikes generated on each trial was determined by a doubly stochastic Poisson process. The spike counts were decoded using a Bayesian decoder to give an estimate of the stimulus contrast. Tolhurst and colleagues used the estimated contrast values to assess the model's performance in a number of ways, and they uncovered several relationships between properties of the neurons and characteristics of performance. Although this work made a substantial contribution to our understanding of the links between physiology and perceptual performance, the Monte Carlo simulations provided little insight into why the obtained patterns of results arose or how general they are. We overcame these problems by deriving equations that predict the model's performance. We derived an approximation of the model's decoding precision using Fisher information. We also analyzed the model's contrast detection performance and discovered a previously unknown theoretical connection between the Naka-Rushton contrast-response function and the Weibull psychometric function. Our equations give many insights into the theoretical relationships between physiology and perceptual performance reported by Tolhurst and colleagues, explaining how they arise and how they generalize across the neuronal parameter space.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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