Coordinated multiplexing of information about separate objects in visual cortex.


Sensory receptive fields are large enough that they can contain more than one perceptible stimulus. How, then, can the brain encode information about each of the stimuli that may be present at a given moment? We recently showed that when more than one stimulus is present, single neurons can fluctuate between coding one vs. the other(s) across some time period, suggesting a form of neural multiplexing of different stimuli (Caruso et al., 2018). Here, we investigate (a) whether such coding fluctuations occur in early visual cortical areas; (b) how coding fluctuations are coordinated across the neural population; and (c) how coordinated coding fluctuations depend on the parsing of stimuli into separate vs. fused objects. We found coding fluctuations do occur in macaque V1 but only when the two stimuli form separate objects. Such separate objects evoked a novel pattern of V1 spike count ('noise') correlations involving distinct distributions of positive and negative values. This bimodal correlation pattern was most pronounced among pairs of neurons showing the strongest evidence for coding fluctuations or multiplexing. Whether a given pair of neurons exhibited positive or negative correlations depended on whether the two neurons both responded better to the same object or had different object preferences. Distinct distributions of spike count correlations based on stimulus preferences were also seen in V4 for separate objects but not when two stimuli fused to form one object. These findings suggest multiple objects evoke different response dynamics than those evoked by single stimuli, lending support to the multiplexing hypothesis and suggesting a means by which information about multiple objects can be preserved despite the apparent coarseness of sensory coding.





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Publication Info

Jun, Na Young, Douglas A Ruff, Lily E Kramer, Brittany Bowes, Surya T Tokdar, Marlene R Cohen and Jennifer M Groh (2022). Coordinated multiplexing of information about separate objects in visual cortex. eLife, 11. p. e76452. 10.7554/elife.76452 Retrieved from

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Surya Tapas Tokdar

Professor of Statistical Science

Jennifer M. Groh

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Research in my laboratory concerns how sensory and motor systems work together, and how neural representations play a combined role in sensorimotor and cognitive processing (embodied cognition).

Most of our work concerns the interactions between vision and hearing. We frequently perceive visual and auditory stimuli as being bound together if they seem likely to have arisen from a common source. That's why we tend not to notice that the speakers on TV sets or in movie theatres are located beside, and not behind, the screen. Research in my laboratory is devoted to investigating the question of how the brain coordinates the information arising from the ears and eyes. Our findings challenge the historical view of the brain's sensory processing as being automatic, autonomous, and immune from outside influence. We have recently established that neurons in the auditory pathway (inferior colliculus, auditory cortex) alter their responses to sound depending on where the eyes are pointing. This finding suggests that the different sensory pathways meddle in one another's supposedly private affairs, making their respective influences felt even at very early stages of processing. The process of bringing the signals from two different sensory pathways into a common frame of reference begins at a surprisingly early point along the primary sensory pathways.

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