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The spatial transformation of color in the primary visual cortex of the macaque monkey

An Erratum to this article was published on 01 February 2002

Abstract

Perceptually, color is used to discriminate objects by hue and to identify color boundaries. The primate retina and the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) have cell populations sensitive to color modulation, but the role of the primary visual cortex (V1) in color signal processing is uncertain. We re-evaluated color processing in V1 by studying single-neuron responses to luminance and to equiluminant color patterns equated for cone contrast. Many neurons respond robustly to both equiluminant color and luminance modulation (color-luminance cells). Also, there are neurons that prefer luminance (luminance cells), and a few neurons that prefer color (color cells). Surprisingly, most color-luminance cells are spatial-frequency tuned, with approximately equal selectivity for chromatic and achromatic patterns. Therefore, V1 retains the color sensitivity provided by the LGN, and adds spatial selectivity for color boundaries.

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Figure 1: Spatial frequency responses for six V1 neurons to black/white luminance and red/green equiluminance.
Figure 2: Ratio of equiluminance response to luminance response (sensitivity ratio) in simple and complex cells across cortical layers.
Figure 3: Laminar distribution of neurons in each classification.
Figure 4: Spatial frequency response to luminance gratings, equiluminant gratings, L-cone, M-cone and S-cone-isolating gratings for a simple cell in layer 4Cα.
Figure 5: Spatial properties of all simple and complex cells that respond to both luminance gratings and equiluminant gratings (n = 48).
Figure 6: Spatial frequency bandwidths of all simple and complex color-luminance cells for luminance gratings and cone-isolating gratings.
Figure 7: Histograms of the L- and M-cone phase differences from the L- and M-cone isolating frequency responses for all simple cells in the population.
Figure 8: Responses of a LGN parvocellular neuron and a V1 simple color-luminance cell to equiluminant red/green gratings of different spatial frequencies.

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Acknowledgements

We thank D. Ringach, M. Sceniak, I. Mareschal, J.A. Henrie and F. Mechler for helping with the physiology experiments. L. Smith helped in the histological reconstruction and during physiology experiments. We also thank R.C. Reid for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grant EY01472 and EY8300, National Institute of Mental Health predoctoral grant MH12430-01 and Core Grant for Vision Research P30-EY13079.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth N. Johnson.

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Johnson, E., Hawken, M. & Shapley, R. The spatial transformation of color in the primary visual cortex of the macaque monkey. Nat Neurosci 4, 409–416 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/86061

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