Indexed on: 09 Nov '02Published on: 09 Nov '02Published in: Journal of neurophysiology
The responsiveness of neurons in V1 is modulated by stimuli placed outside their classical receptive fields. This nonclassical surround provides input from a larger portion of the visual scene than originally thought, permitting integration of information at early levels in the visual processing stream. Signals from the surround have been reported variously to be suppressive and facilitatory, selective and unselective. We tested the specificity of influences from the surround by studying the interactions between drifting sinusoidal gratings carefully confined to conservatively defined center and surround regions. We found that the surround influence was always suppressive when the surround grating was at the neuron's preferred orientation. Suppression tended to be stronger when the surround grating also moved in the neuron's preferred direction, rather than its opposite. When the orientation in the surround was 90 degrees from the preferred orientation (orthogonal), suppression was weaker, and facilitation was sometimes evident. The tuning of surround signals therefore tended to match the tuning of the center, though the tuning of the surround was somewhat broader. The tuning of suppression also depended on the contrast of the center grating-when the center grating was reduced in contrast, orthogonal surround stimuli became relatively more suppressive. We also found evidence for the tuning of the surround being dependent to some degree on the stimulus used in the center-suppression was often stronger for a given center stimulus when the parameters of the surround grating matched the parameters of the center grating even when the center grating was not itself of the optimal direction or orientation. We also explored the spatial distribution of surround influence and found an orderly relationship between the orientation of grating patches presented to regions of the surround and the position of greatest suppression. When surround gratings were oriented parallel to the preferred orientation of the receptive field, suppression was strongest at the receptive field ends. When surround gratings were orthogonal, suppression was strongest on the flanks. We conclude that the surround has complex effects on responses from the classical receptive field. We suggest that the underlying mechanism of this complexity may involve interactions between relatively simple center and surround mechanisms.