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Elife. 2017 Apr 11;6. pii: e22794. doi: 10.7554/eLife.22794.

Emergence of transformation-tolerant representations of visual objects in rat lateral extrastriate cortex.

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Visual Neuroscience Lab, International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), Trieste, Italy.
Laboratory of Neural Computation, Center for Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems @UniTn, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Rovereto, Italy.
Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States.


Rodents are emerging as increasingly popular models of visual functions. Yet, evidence that rodent visual cortex is capable of advanced visual processing, such as object recognition, is limited. Here we investigate how neurons located along the progression of extrastriate areas that, in the rat brain, run laterally to primary visual cortex, encode object information. We found a progressive functional specialization of neural responses along these areas, with: (1) a sharp reduction of the amount of low-level, energy-related visual information encoded by neuronal firing; and (2) a substantial increase in the ability of both single neurons and neuronal populations to support discrimination of visual objects under identity-preserving transformations (e.g., position and size changes). These findings strongly argue for the existence of a rat object-processing pathway, and point to the rodents as promising models to dissect the neuronal circuitry underlying transformation-tolerant recognition of visual objects.


information theory; invariance; neuronal coding; neuroscience; object recognition; rat; transformation tolerance; visual cortex

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