The Representation of Brightness in Primary Visual Cortex

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Science  23 Aug 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5278, pp. 1104-1107
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5278.1104


Although neurons in primary visual cortex are sensitive to the spatial distribution and intensity of light, their responses have not been thought to correlate with the perception of brightness. Indeed, primary visual cortex is often described as an initial processing stage that sends information to higher cortical areas where perception of brightness, color, and form occurs. However, a significant percentage of neurons in primary visual cortex were shown to respond in a manner correlated with perceived brightness, rather than responding strictly to the light level in the receptive fields of the cells. This finding suggests that even at the first stage of visual cortical processing, spatial integration of information yields perceptual qualities that are only indirectly related to the pattern of illumination of the retina.

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