Vision is a dynamic process that refines the spatial scale of analysis over time, as evidenced by a progressive improvement in the ability to detect and discriminate finer details. To understand coarse-to-fine discrimination, we studied the dynamics of spatial frequency (SF) response using reverse correlation in the primary visual cortex (V1) of the primate. In a majority of V1 cells studied, preferred SF either increased monotonically with time (group 1) or changed nonmonotonically, with an initial increase followed by a decrease (group 2). Monotonic shift in preferred SF occurred with or without an early suppression at low SFs. Late suppression at high SFs always accompanied nonmonotonic SF dynamics. Bayesian analysis showed that SF discrimination performance and best discriminable SF frequencies changed with time in different ways in the two groups of neurons. In group 1 neurons, SF discrimination performance peaked on both left and right flanks of the SF tuning curve at about the same time. In group 2 neurons, peak discrimination occurred on the right flank (high SFs) later than on the left flank (low SFs). Group 2 neurons were also better discriminators of high SFs. We examined the relationship between the time at which SF discrimination performance peaked on either flank of the SF tuning curve and the corresponding best discriminable SFs in both neuronal groups. This analysis showed that the population best discriminable SF increased with time in V1. These results suggest neural mechanisms for coarse-to-fine discrimination behavior and that this process originates in V1 or earlier.
Copyright © 2014 the American Physiological Society.