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Exp Brain Res. 1989;77(2):398-406.

Orientation discrimination sensitivity of single units in cat primary visual cortex.

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Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis 95616.


Responses of visual cortex (area 17) neurons to moving oriented stimuli were recorded from anesthetized cats. The variance of response (SD2) to repeated identical stimuli was directly proportional to response magnitude (R), (SD2 = C2R). The values of C were not found to differ significantly between different types of cortical cells. The relationship predicts that the coefficient of variation (SD/R) will be smallest near the peak of the tuning curve, indicating that the peak response is most reliable for detecting an orientation but not necessarily the most sensitive to a change in orientation. Tuning curves and response variability were then examined to determine the orientation at which the neuron was most sensitive to changes in stimulus orientation using signal detection theory. The discrimination index (d' = [R1-R2]/SD) for a 1 degree change in stimulus orientation was greatest along the flanks of the tuning curve. In order to generalize the experimental data, response distributions derived from a model of cells with parameters based on experimental data were examined to determine the minimal discriminable change in stimulus orientation. Changes of stimulus orientation between 0.6 and 5 deg of arc could be detected from single responses of a single cell by an optimal observer with 75% accuracy if the orientation change was centered at the most sensitive part of the tuning curve.

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