Retinal and cortical nonlinearities combine to produce masking in V1 responses to plaids

Melinda Koelling, Robert Shapley, Michael Shelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The visual response of a cell in the primary visual cortex (V1) to a drifting grating stimulus at the cell's preferred orientation decreases when a second, perpendicular, grating is superimposed. This effect is called masking. To understand the nonlinear masking effect, we model the response of Macaque V1 simple cells in layer 4Cα to input from magnocellular Lateral Geniculate Nucleus (LGN) cells. The cortical model network is a coarse-grained reduction of an integrate-and-fire network with excitation from LGN input and inhibition from other cortical neurons. The input is modeled as a sum of LGN cell responses. Each LGN cell is modeled as the convolution of a spatio-temporal filter with the visual stimulus, normalized by a retinal contrast gain control, and followed by rectification representing the LGN spike threshold. In our model, the experimentally observed masking arises at the level of LGN input to the cortex. The cortical network effectively induces a dynamic threshold that forces the test grating to have high contrast before it can overcome the masking provided by the perpendicular grating. The subcortical nonlinearities and the cortical network together account for the masking effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)390-400
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Computational Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008


  • Functional organization and circuitry
  • Subcortical visual pathways
  • Visual masking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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