Statistical structure of lateral connections in the primary visual cortex

Jonathan J Hunt, William H Bosking, Geoffrey J Goodhill
Neural Systems & Circuits 2011, 1 (1): 3

BACKGROUND: The statistical structure of the visual world offers many useful clues for understanding how biological visual systems may understand natural scenes. One particularly important early process in visual object recognition is that of grouping together edges which belong to the same contour. The layout of edges in natural scenes have strong statistical structure. One such statistical property is that edges tend to lie on a common circle, and this 'co-circularity' can predict human performance at contour grouping. We therefore tested the hypothesis that long-range excitatory lateral connections in the primary visual cortex, which are believed to be involved in contour grouping, display a similar co-circular structure.

RESULTS: By analyzing data from tree shrews, where information on both lateral connectivity and the overall structure of the orientation map was available, we found a surprising diversity in the relevant statistical structure of the connections. In particular, the extent to which co-circularity was displayed varied significantly.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, these data suggest the intriguing possibility that V1 may contain both co-circular and anti-cocircular connections.

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