Mouse primary visual cortex is used to detect both orientation and contrast changes.
In mammals, the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and the superior colliculus (SC) are the major targets of visual inputs from the retina. The LGN projects mainly to primary visual cortex (V1) while the SC targets the thalamus and brainstem, providing two potential pathways for processing visual inputs. Indeed, cortical lesion experiments in rodents have yielded mixed results, leading to the hypothesis that performance of simple visual behaviors may involve computations performed entirely by this subcortical pathway through the SC. However, these previous experiments have been limited by both their assays of behavioral performance and their use of lesions to change cortical activity. To determine the contribution of V1 to these tasks, we trained mice to perform threshold detection tasks in which they reported changes in either the contrast or orientation of visual stimuli. We then reversibly inhibited V1 by optogenetically activating parvalbumin-expressing inhibitory neurons with channelrhodopsin-2. We found that suppressing activity in V1 substantially impaired performance in visual detection tasks. The behavioral deficit depended on the retinotopic position of the visual stimulus, confirming that the effect was due to the specific suppression of the visually driven V1 neurons. Behavioral effects were seen with only moderate changes in neuronal activity, as inactivation that raised neuronal contrast thresholds by a median of only 14% was associated with a doubling of behavioral contrast detection threshold. Thus, detection of changes in either orientation or contrast is dependent on, and highly sensitive to, the activity of neurons in V1.
Glickfeld, LL; Histed, MH; Maunsell, JHR
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