Spiking Noise and Information Density of Neurons in Visual Area V2 of Infant Monkeys.


College of Optometry, University of Houston, Houston, Texas 77204, [Email]


Encoding of visual information requires precisely timed spiking activity in the network of cortical neurons; irregular spiking can interfere with information processing especially for low-contrast images. The vision of newborn infants is impoverished. An infant's contrast sensitivity is low and the ability to discriminate complex stimuli is poor. The neural mechanisms that limit the visual capacities of infants are a matter of debate. Here we asked whether noisy spiking and/or crude information processing in visual cortex limit infant vision. Since neurons beyond the primary visual cortex (V1) have rarely been studied in neonates or infants, we focused on the firing pattern of neurons in visual area V2, the earliest extrastriate visual area of both male and female macaque monkeys (Maccaca mulatta). For eight stimulus contrasts ranging from 0% to 80%, we analyzed spiking irregularity by calculating the square of the coefficient of variation (CV2) in interspike intervals, the trial-to-trial fluctuation in spiking (Fano factor), and the amount of information on contrast conveyed by each spiking (information density). While the contrast sensitivity of infant neurons was reduced as expected, spiking noise, both the magnitude of spiking irregularity and the trial-to-trial fluctuations, was much lower in the spike trains of infant V2 neurons compared with those of adults. However, information density for V2 neurons was significantly lower in infants. Our results suggest that poor contrast sensitivity combined with lower information density of extrastriate neurons, despite their lower spiking noise, may limit behaviorally determined contrast sensitivity soon after birth.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Despite >50 years of investigations on the postnatal development of the primary visual cortex (V1), cortical mechanisms that may limit infant vision are still unclear. We investigated the quality and strength of neuronal firing in primate visual area V2 by analyzing contrast sensitivity, spiking variability, and the amount of information on contrast conveyed by each action potential (information density). Here we demonstrate that the firing rate, contrast sensitivity, and dynamic range of V2 neurons were depressed in infants compared with adults. Although spiking noise was less, information density was lower in infant V2. Impoverished neuronal drive and lower information density in extrastriate visual areas, despite lower spiking noise, largely explain the impoverished visual sensitivity of primates near birth.


Fano factor,V2,interspike interval,mutual information,noise,

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