Contextual modulation of sensitivity to naturalistic image structure in macaque V2

Corey M. Ziemba, Jeremy Freeman, Eero P. Simoncelli, J. Anthony Movshon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The stimulus selectivity of neurons in V1 is well known, as is the finding that their responses can be affected by visual input to areas outside of the classical receptive field. Less well understood are the ways selectivity is modified as signals propagate to visual areas beyond V1, such as V2. We recently proposed a role for V2 neurons in representing the higher order statistical dependencies found in images of naturally occurring visual texture. V2 neurons, but not V1 neurons, respond more vigorously to “naturalistic” images that contain these dependencies than to “noise” images that lack them. In this work, we examine the dependency of these effects on stimulus size. For most V2 neurons, the preference for naturalistic over noise stimuli was modest when presented in small patches and gradually strengthened with increasing size, suggesting that the mechanisms responsible for this enhanced sensitivity operate over regions of the visual field that are larger than the classical receptive field. Indeed, we found that surround suppression was stronger for noise than for naturalistic stimuli and that the preference for large naturalistic stimuli developed over a delayed time course consistent with lateral or feedback connections. These findings are compatible with a spatially broad facilitatory mechanism that is absent in V1 and suggest that a distinct role for the receptive field surround emerges in V2 along with sensitivity for more complex image structure. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The responses of neurons in visual cortex are often affected by visual input delivered to regions of the visual field outside of the conventionally defined receptive field, but the significance of such contextual modulations are not well understood outside of area V1. We studied the importance of regions beyond the receptive field in establishing a novel form of selectivity for the statistical dependencies contained in natural visual textures that first emerges in area V2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-420
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Natural image statistics
  • Surround suppression
  • Texture
  • V2
  • Visual cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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