Article | Published:

Flexible gating of contextual influences in natural vision

Nature Neuroscience volume 18, pages 16481655 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

Identical sensory inputs can be perceived as markedly different when embedded in distinct contexts. Neural responses to simple stimuli are also modulated by context, but the contribution of this modulation to the processing of natural sensory input is unclear. We measured surround suppression, a quintessential contextual influence, in macaque primary visual cortex with natural images. We found that suppression strength varied substantially for different images. This variability was not well explained by existing descriptions of surround suppression, but it was predicted by Bayesian inference about statistical dependencies in images. In this framework, surround suppression was flexible: it was recruited when the image was inferred to contain redundancies and substantially reduced in strength otherwise. Thus, our results reveal a gating of a basic, widespread cortical computation by inference about the statistics of natural input.

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Acknowledgements

We thank P. Dayan, C.A. Henry and A. Huk for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript, members of the Kohn laboratory for help performing recordings, and S. Barthelme for discussion on estimating model performance. This work was supported by a US National Institutes of Health grant to O.S. and A.K. (CRCNS EY021371), an Irma T. Hirchl Career Scientist Award (A.K.), a Sloan Research Fellowship (O.S.) and by Research to Prevent Blindness.

Author information

Author notes

    • Ruben Coen-Cagli
    •  & Odelia Schwartz

    Present addresses: Department of Basic Neuroscience, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland (R.C.-C.), Department of Computer Science, University of Miami, Miami, Florida, USA (O.S.).

    • Adam Kohn
    •  & Odelia Schwartz

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. D.P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, USA.

    • Ruben Coen-Cagli
    • , Adam Kohn
    •  & Odelia Schwartz
  2. Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, USA.

    • Adam Kohn
  3. Department of Systems and Computational Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, USA.

    • Adam Kohn
    •  & Odelia Schwartz

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Contributions

R.C.-C., A.K. and O.S. designed the study. R.C.-C. collected and analyzed the data. R.C.-C., A.K. and O.S. wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ruben Coen-Cagli.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4128

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