Membrane Potential and Conductance Changes Underlying Length Tuning of Cells in Cat Primary Visual Cortex
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Spike responses for many cells of cat primary visual cortex are optimized for the length of a drifting grating stimulus. Stimuli that are longer or shorter than this optimal length elicit submaximal spike responses. To investigate the mechanisms responsible for this length tuning, we have recorded intracellularly from visual cortical neurons in the cat while presenting drifting grating stimuli of varying lengths. We have found that the membrane potential responses of the cells also exhibit length tuning, but that the suppression of spike responses at lengths longer than the preferred is 30-50% stronger than the corresponding suppression of the membrane potential responses. This difference may be attributed to the effects of spike threshold. Furthermore, using steady injected currents, we have measured changes in the excitatory and inhibitory components of input conductance evoked by stimuli of different lengths. We find that, compared with optimal stimuli, long stimuli evoke both an increase in inhibitory conductance and a decrease in excitatory conductance. These two mechanisms differ in their contrast sensitivity, resulting in stronger end stopping and shorter optimal lengths for high-contrast stimuli. These patterns suggest that response suppression for long stimuli is generated by a combination of active inhibition from stimuli outside the excitatory receptive field, as well as decreased excitation from other cortical cells that are themselves end-inhibited.
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