Selectivity and Tolerance ("Invariance") Both Increase as Visual Information Propagates from Cortical Area V4 to IT

TitleSelectivity and Tolerance ("Invariance") Both Increase as Visual Information Propagates from Cortical Area V4 to IT
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsRust, NC, DiCarlo, JJ
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Pagination12978 - 12995
Date Published09/2010

Our ability to recognize objects despite large changes in position, size, and context is achieved through computations that are thought to increase both the shape selectivity and the tolerance ("invariance") of the visual representation at successive stages of the ventral pathway [visual cortical areas V1, V2, and V4 and inferior temporal cortex {(IT)].} However, these ideas have proven difficult to test. Here, we consider how well population activity patterns at two stages of the ventral stream {(V4} and {IT)} discriminate between, and generalize across, different images. We found that both V4 and {IT} encode natural images with similar fidelity, whereas the {IT} population is much more sensitive to controlled, statistical scrambling of those images. Scrambling sensitivity was proportional to receptive field {(RF)} size in both V4 and {IT,} suggesting that, on average, the number of visual feature conjunctions implemented by a V4 or {IT} neuron is directly related to its {RF} size. We also found that the {IT} population could better discriminate between objects across changes in position, scale, and context, thus directly demonstrating a {V4-to-IT} gain in tolerance. This tolerance gain could be accounted for by both a decrease in single-unit sensitivity to identity-preserving transformations (e.g., an increase in {RF} size) and an increase in the maintenance of rank-order object selectivity within the {RF.} These results demonstrate that, as visual information travels from V4 to {IT,} the population representation is reformatted to become more selective for feature conjunctions and more tolerant to identity preserving transformations, and they reveal the single-unit response properties that underlie that reformatting.

Short TitleJournal of Neuroscience