Response sub-additivity and variability quenching in visual cortex

Robbe L. T. Goris, Ruben Coen-Cagli,Kenneth D. Miller, Nicholas J. Priebe,Máté Lengyel

Nature Reviews Neuroscience(2024)

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Sub-additivity and variability are ubiquitous response motifs in the primary visual cortex (V1). Response sub-additivity enables the construction of useful interpretations of the visual environment, whereas response variability indicates the factors that limit the precision with which the brain can do this. There is increasing evidence that experimental manipulations that elicit response sub-additivity often also quench response variability. Here, we provide an overview of these phenomena and suggest that they may have common origins. We discuss empirical findings and recent model-based insights into the functional operations, computational objectives and circuit mechanisms underlying V1 activity. These different modelling approaches all predict that response sub-additivity and variability quenching often co-occur. The phenomenology of these two response motifs, as well as many of the insights obtained about them in V1, generalize to other cortical areas. Thus, the connection between response sub-additivity and variability quenching may be a canonical motif across the cortex.
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