Switching between off and on in the macaque visual system

Wyeth Bair, James R. Cavanaugh, M. A. Smith, J. A. Movshon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At multiple stages in the visual system, neurons can be driven rapidly from near minimum to near maximum firing rate (turned on) or from near maximum to near minimum rate (turned off). We measured the timing of single neuron responses to on-off and off-on transitions in the LGN, V1, and area MT of the anesthetized macaque monkey in order to understand how signals which support the on and off states interact at the transition boundaries and how the interactions differ across visual areas and classes of neurons. Our stimuli were random binary sequences in which either a preferred stimulus (P, which drove the cell maximally) or an anti-preferred stimulus (A, giving minimal response) was shown on each video frame at 100Hz. We also used ternary random sequences which included a neutral stimulus (N). Typically, P was an optimized sine grating, A was counterphase (LGN and V1) or orthogonal to P (V1), and N was mean gray. For direction selective (DS) cells, P moved in the preferred direction, A moved in the opposite direction, and N was static. We tested the center and surround in LGN, the classical receptive field and surround in V1, and DS cells in V1 and MT. Overall, turning on (from off) took longer than turning off (from on). Specifically, the decrease in firing rate for P-A transitions began sooner than the rate increase for A-P transitions, and the delay for the A-P response was often less when A was present longer. With ternary stimuli, the N-P and N-A responses showed little or no timing difference for the LGN and for DS cells in V1 and MT. However, for orientation selectivity in V1, the timing asymmetry persisted for N-P and N-A responses. Our results are consistent with the notion that A stimuli place neurons in a hyperpolarized state, delaying the response when P is applied. The delay depended on both the duration of A and on the strength of P. However, several variations in the typical behavior point to differences in mechanisms across classes of neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202a
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


Dive into the research topics of 'Switching between off and on in the macaque visual system'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this