Coding of natural scenes in primary visual cortex

Michael Weliky, József O. Fiser, Ruskin H. Hunt, David N. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Natural scene coding in ferret visual cortex was investigated using a new technique for multi-site recording of neuronal activity from the cortical surface. Surface recordings accurately reflected radially aligned layer 2/3 activity. At individual sites, evoked activity to natural scenes was weakly correlated with the local image contrast structure falling within the cells' classical receptive field. However, a population code, derived from activity integrated across cortical sites having retinotopically overlapping receptive fields, correlated strongly with the local image contrast structure. Cell responses demonstrated high lifetime sparseness, population sparseness, and high dispersal values, implying efficient neural coding in terms of information processing. These results indicate that while cells at an individual cortical site do not provide a reliable estimate of the local contrast structure in natural scenes, cell activity integrated across distributed cortical sites is closely related to this structure in the form of a sparse and dispersed code.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)703-718
Number of pages16
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 20 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NIH (NEI) and the McKnight Foundation. Thanks to Chiayu Chiu and Daeyeol Lee for a critical reading of the manuscript, and Samantha Stiehl for assistance with electrode development and fabrication. Also thanks to Tony Movshon and the anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions and comments.


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