A dynamic nonlinearity and spatial phase specificity in macaque V1 neurons

Patrick E. Williams, Robert M. Shapley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While studying the visual response dynamics of neurons in the macaque primary visual cortex (V1), we found a nonlinearity of temporal response that influences the visual functions of V1 neurons. Simple cells were recorded in all layers of V1; the nonlinearity was strongest in neurons located in layer 2/3. We recorded the spike responses to optimal sinusoidal gratings that were displayed for 100 ms, a temporal step response. The step responses were measured at many spatial phases of the grating stimulus. To judge whether simple cell behavior was consistent with linear temporal integration, the decay of the 100 ms step response at the preferred spatial phase was used to predict the step response at the opposite spatial phase. Responses in layers 4B and 4C were mostly consistent with a linear-plus-static-nonlinearity cascade model. However, this was not true in layer 2/3 where most cells had little or no step responses at the opposite spatial phase. Many layer 2/3 cells had transient preferred-phase responses but did not respond at the offset of the opposite-phase stimuli, indicating a dynamic nonlinearity. A different stimulus sequence, rapidly presented random sinusoids, also produced the same effect, with layer 2/3 simple cells exhibiting elevated spike rates in response to stimuli at one spatial phase but not 180° away. The presence of a dynamic nonlinearity in the responses of V1 simple cells indicates that first-order analyses often capture only a fraction of neuronal behavior. The visual implication of our results is that simple cells in layer 2/3 are spatial phase-sensitive detectors that respond to contrast boundaries of one sign but not the opposite.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5706-5718
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number21
StatePublished - May 23 2007


  • Dynamic
  • Layer 2/3
  • Nonlinearity
  • Simple cells
  • Spatial phase
  • Striate cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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