Eye movements and the maturation of cortical orientation selectivity

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 14 (NIPS 2001)

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Antonino Casile, Michele Rucci


Neural activity appears to be a crucial component for shaping the recep- tive fields of cortical simple cells into adjacent, oriented subregions alter- nately receiving ON- and OFF-center excitatory geniculate inputs. It is known that the orientation selective responses of V1 neurons are refined by visual experience. After eye opening, the spatiotemporal structure of neural activity in the early stages of the visual pathway depends both on the visual environment and on how the environment is scanned. We have used computational modeling to investigate how eye movements might affect the refinement of the orientation tuning of simple cells in the pres- ence of a Hebbian scheme of synaptic plasticity. Levels of correlation be- tween the activity of simulated cells were examined while natural scenes were scanned so as to model sequences of saccades and fixational eye movements, such as microsaccades, tremor and ocular drift. The specific patterns of activity required for a quantitatively accurate development of simple cell receptive fields with segregated ON and OFF subregions were observed during fixational eye movements, but not in the presence of saccades or with static presentation of natural visual input. These re- sults suggest an important role for the eye movements occurring during visual fixation in the refinement of orientation selectivity.