Stimulus context alters neural representations of faces in inferotemporal cortex


Behrad Noudoost, Neda Nategh, K L Clark, H Esteky


Journal of Neurophysiology


One goal of our nervous system is to form predictions about the world around us to facilitate our responses to upcoming events. One basis for such predictions could be the recently encountered visual stimuli, or the recent statistics of the visual environment. We examined the effect of recently experienced stimulus statistics on the visual representation of face stimuli by recording the responses of face-responsive neurons in the final stage of visual object recognition, the inferotemporal (IT) cortex, during blocks in which the probability of seeing a particular face was either 100% or only 12%. During the block with only face images, about 30% of IT neurons exhibit enhanced anticipatory activity prior to the evoked visual response. This anticipatory modulation is followed by greater activity, broader view tuning, more distributed processing, and more reliable responses of IT neurons to the face stimuli. These changes in the visual response were sufficient to improve the ability of IT neurons to represent a variable property of the predictable face images (viewing angle), as measured by the performance of a simple linear classifier. These results demonstrate that the recent statistics of the visual environment can facilitate processing of stimulus information in the population neuronal representation.



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