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J Vis. 2016 Jul 1;16(9):1. doi: 10.1167/16.9.1.

Comparing models of contrast gain using psychophysical experiments.


In a wide variety of neural systems, neurons tuned to a primary dimension of interest often have responses that are modulated in a multiplicative manner by other features such as stimulus intensity or contrast. In this methodological study, we present a demonstration that it is possible to use psychophysical experiments to compare competing hypotheses of multiplicative gain modulation in a neural population, using the specific example of contrast gain modulation in orientation-tuned visual neurons. We demonstrate that fitting biologically interpretable models to psychophysical data yields physiologically accurate estimates of contrast tuning parameters and allows us to compare competing hypotheses of contrast tuning. We demonstrate a powerful methodology for comparing competing neural models using adaptively generated psychophysical stimuli and demonstrate that such stimuli can be highly effective for distinguishing qualitatively similar hypotheses. We relate our work to the growing body of literature that uses fits of neural models to behavioral data to gain insight into neural coding and suggest directions for future research.

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