Dissociation of Choice Formation and Choice-Correlated Activity in Macaque Visual Cortex
Responses of individual task-relevant sensory neurons can predict monkeys' trial-by-trial choices in perceptual decision-making tasks. Choice-correlated activity has been interpreted as evidence that the responses of these neurons are causally linked to perceptual judgments. To further test this hypothesis, we studied responses of orientation-selective neurons in V1 and V2 while two macaque monkeys performed a fine orientation discrimination task. Although both animals exhibited a high level of neuronal and behavioral sensitivity, only one exhibited choice-correlated activity. Surprisingly, this correlation was negative: when a neuron fired more vigorously, the animal was less likely to choose the orientation preferred by that neuron. Moreover, choice-correlated activity emerged late in the trial, earlier in V2 than in V1, and was correlated with anticipatory signals. Together, these results suggest that choice-correlated activity in task-relevant sensory neurons can reflect postdecision modulatory signals.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT When observers perform a difficult sensory discrimination, repeated presentations of the same stimulus can elicit different perceptual judgments. This behavioral variability often correlates with variability in the activity of sensory neurons driven by the stimulus. Traditionally, this correlation has been interpreted as suggesting a causal link between the activity of sensory neurons and perceptual judgments. More recently, it has been argued that the correlation instead may originate in recurrent input from other brain areas involved in the interpretation of sensory signals. Here, we call both hypotheses into question. We show that choice-related activity in sensory neurons can be highly variable across observers and can reflect modulatory processes that are dissociated from perceptual decision-making.
Development of visual cortical function in infant macaques: A BOLD fMRI study
Functional brain development is not well understood. In the visual system, neurophysiological studies in nonhuman primates show quite mature neuronal properties near birth although visual function is itself quite immature and continues to develop over many months or years after birth. Our goal was to assess the relative development of two main visual processing streams, dorsal and ventral, using BOLD fMRI in an attempt to understand the global mechanisms that support the maturation of visual behavior. Seven infant macaque monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were repeatedly scanned, while anesthetized, over an age range of 102 to 1431 days. Large rotating checkerboard stimuli induced BOLD activation in visual cortices at early ages. Additionally we used static and dynamic Glass pattern stimuli to probe BOLD responses in primary visual cortex and two extrastriate areas: V4 and MT-V5. The resulting activations were analyzed with standard GLM and multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA) approaches. We analyzed three contrasts: Glass pattern present/absent, static/dynamic Glass pattern presentation, and structured/random Glass pattern form. For both GLM and MVPA approaches, robust coherent BOLD activation appeared relatively late in comparison to the maturation of known neuronal properties and the development of behavioral sensitivity to Glass patterns. Robust differential activity to Glass pattern present/absent and dynamic/static stimulus presentation appeared first in V1, followed by V4 and MT-V5 at older ages; there was no reliable distinction between the two extrastriate areas. A similar pattern of results was obtained with the two analysis methods, although MVPA analysis showed reliable differential responses emerging at later ages than GLM. Although BOLD responses to large visual stimuli are detectable, our results with more refined stimuli indicate that global BOLD activity changes as behavioral performance matures. This reflects an hierarchical development of the visual pathways. Since fMRI BOLD reflects neural activity on a population level, our results indicate that, although individual neurons might be adult-like, a longer maturation process takes place on a population level.
Opportunities and challenges in modeling human brain disorders in transgenic primates
Molecular genetic tools have had a profound impact on neuroscience, but until recently their application has largely been confined to a few model species, most notably mouse, zebrafish, Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans. With the development of new genome engineering technologies such as CRISPR, it is becoming increasingly feasible to apply these molecular tools in a wider range of species, including nonhuman primates. This will lead to many opportunities for brain research, but it will also pose challenges. Here we identify some of these opportunities and challenges in light of recent and foreseeable technological advances and offer some suggestions. Our main focus is on the creation of new primate disease models for understanding the pathological mechanisms of brain disorders and for developing new approaches to effective treatment. However, we also emphasize that primate genetic models have great potential to address many fundamental questions about brain function, providing an essential foundation for future progress in disease research.
Properties of pattern and component direction-selective cells in area MT of the macaque
Neurons in area MT/V5 of the macaque visual cortex encode visual motion. Some cells are selective for the motion of oriented features (component direction-selective, CDS); others respond to the true direction of complex patterns (pattern-direction selective, PDS). There is a continuum of selectivity in MT, with CDS cells at one extreme and PDS cells at the other; we compute a pattern index that captures this variation. It is unknown how a neuron's pattern index is related to its other tuning characteristics. We therefore analyzed the responses of 792 MT cells recorded in the course of other experiments from opiate-anesthetized macaque monkeys, as a function of the direction, spatial frequency, drift rate, size, and contrast of sinusoidal gratings and of the direction and speed of random-dot textures. We also compared MT responses to those of 718 V1 cells. As expected, MT cells with higher pattern index tended to have stronger direction selectivity and broader direction tuning to gratings, and they responded better to plaids than to gratings. Strongly PDS cells also tended to have smaller receptive fields and stronger surround suppression. Interestingly, they also responded preferentially to higher drift rates and higher speeds of moving dots. The spatial frequency preferences of PDS cells depended strongly on their preferred temporal frequencies, whereas these preferences were independent in component-selective cells. Pattern direction selectivity is statistically associated with many response properties of MT cells but not strongly associated with any particular property. Pattern-selective signals are thus available in association with most other signals exported by MT.
Selectivity and tolerance for visual texture in macaque V2
As information propagates along the ventral visual hierarchy, neuronal responses become both more specific for particular image features and more tolerant of image transformations that preserve those features. Here, we present evidence that neurons in area V2 are selective for local statistics that occur in natural visual textures, and tolerant of manipulations that preserve these statistics. Texture stimuli were generated by sampling from a statistical model, with parameters chosen to match the parameters of a set of visually distinct natural texture images. Stimuli generated with the same statistics are perceptually similar to each other despite differences, arising from the sampling process, in the precise spatial location of features. We assessed the accuracy with which these textures could be classified based on the responses of V1 and V2 neurons recorded individually in anesthetized macaque monkeys. We also assessed the accuracy with which particular samples could be identified, relative to other statistically matched samples. For populations of up to 100 cells, V1 neurons supported better performance in the sample identification task, whereas V2 neurons exhibited better performance in texture classification. Relative to V1, the responses of V2 show greater selectivity and tolerance for the representation of texture statistics.
Saccadic latency in amblyopia
We measured saccadic latencies in a large sample (total n = 459) of individuals with amblyopia or risk factors for amblyopia, e.g., strabismus or anisometropia, and normal control subjects. We presented an easily visible target randomly to the left or right, 3.5 degrees from fixation. The interocular difference in saccadic latency is highly correlated with the interocular difference in LogMAR (Snellen) acuity-as the acuity difference increases, so does the latency difference. Strabismic and strabismic-anisometropic amblyopes have, on average, a larger difference between their eyes in LogMAR acuity than anisometropic amblyopes and thus their interocular latency difference is, on average, significantly larger than anisometropic amblyopes. Despite its relation to LogMAR acuity, the longer latency in strabismic amblyopes cannot be attributed either to poor resolution or to reduced contrast sensitivity, because their interocular differences in grating acuity and in contrast sensitivity are roughly the same as for anisometropic amblyopes. The correlation between LogMAR acuity and saccadic latency arises because of the confluence of two separable effects in the strabismic amblyopic eye-poor letter recognition impairs LogMAR acuity while an intrinsic sluggishness delays reaction time. We speculate that the frequent microsaccades and the accompanying attentional shifts, made while strabismic amblyopes struggle to maintain fixation with their amblyopic eyes, result in all types of reactions being irreducibly delayed.
Origin and Function of Tuning Diversity in Macaque Visual Cortex
Neurons in visual cortex vary in their orientation selectivity. We measured responses of V1 and V2 cells to orientation mixtures and fit them with a model whose stimulus selectivity arises from the combined effects of filtering, suppression, and response nonlinearity. The model explains the diversity of orientation selectivity with neuron-to-neuron variability in all three mechanisms, of which variability in the orientation bandwidth of linear filtering is the most important. The model also accounts for the cells' diversity of spatial frequency selectivity. Tuning diversity is matched to the needs of visual encoding. The orientation content found in natural scenes is diverse, and neurons with different selectivities are adapted to different stimulus configurations. Single orientations are better encoded by highly selective neurons, while orientation mixtures are better encoded by less selective neurons. A diverse population of neurons therefore provides better overall discrimination capabilities for natural images than any homogeneous population.
A Convolutional Subunit Model for Neuronal Responses in Macaque V1
The response properties of neurons in the early stages of the visual system can be described using the rectified responses of a set of self-similar, spatially shifted linear filters. In macaque primary visual cortex (V1), simple cell responses can be captured with a single filter, whereas complex cells combine a set of filters, creating position invariance. These filters cannot be estimated using standard methods, such as spike-triggered averaging. Subspace methods like spike-triggered covariance can recover multiple filters but require substantial amounts of data, and recover an orthogonal basis for the subspace in which the filters reside, rather than the filters themselves. Here, we assume a linear-nonlinear-linear-nonlinear (LN-LN) cascade model in which the first LN stage consists of shifted ("convolutional") copies of a single filter, followed by a common instantaneous nonlinearity. We refer to these initial LN elements as the "subunits" of the receptive field, and we allow two independent sets of subunits, each with its own filter and nonlinearity. The second linear stage computes a weighted sum of the subunit responses and passes the result through a final instantaneous nonlinearity. We develop a procedure to directly fit this model to electrophysiological data. When fit to data from macaque V1, the subunit model significantly outperforms three alternatives in terms of cross-validated accuracy and efficiency, and provides a robust, biologically plausible account of receptive field structure for all cell types encountered in V1. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: We present a new subunit model for neurons in primary visual cortex that significantly outperforms three alternative models in terms of cross-validated accuracy and efficiency, and provides a robust and biologically plausible account of the receptive field structure in these neurons across the full spectrum of response properties.
Population representation of visual information in areas V1 and V2 of amblyopic macaques
Amblyopia is a developmental disorder resulting in poor vision in one eye. The mechanism by which input to the affected eye is prevented from reaching the level of awareness remains poorly understood. We recorded simultaneously from large populations of neurons in the supragranular layers of areas V1 and V2 in 6 macaques that were made amblyopic by rearing with artificial strabismus or anisometropia, and 1 normally reared control. In agreement with previous reports, we found that cortical neuronal signals driven through the amblyopic eyes were reduced, and that cortical neurons were on average more strongly driven by the non-amblyopic than by the amblyopic eyes. We analyzed multiunit recordings using standard population decoding methods, and found that visual signals from the amblyopic eye, while weakened, were not degraded enough to explain the behavioral deficits. Thus additional losses must arise in downstream processing. We tested the idea that under monocular viewing conditions, only signals from neurons dominated by - rather than driven by - the open eye might be used. This reduces the proportion of neuronal signals available from the amblyopic eye, and amplifies the interocular difference observed at the level of single neurons. We conclude that amblyopia might arise in part from degradation in the neuronal signals from the amblyopic eye, and in part from a reduction in the number of signals processed by downstream areas.
Brains, Genes, and Primates
One of the great strengths of the mouse model is the wide array of genetic tools that have been developed. Striking examples include methods for directed modification of the genome, and for regulated expression or inactivation of genes. Within neuroscience, it is now routine to express reporter genes, neuronal activity indicators, and opsins in specific neuronal types in the mouse. However, there are considerable anatomical, physiological, cognitive, and behavioral differences between the mouse and the human that, in some areas of inquiry, limit the degree to which insights derived from the mouse can be applied to understanding human neurobiology. Several recent advances have now brought into reach the goal of applying these tools to understanding the primate brain. Here we describe these advances, consider their potential to advance our understanding of the human brain and brain disorders, discuss bioethical considerations, and describe what will be needed to move forward.