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This article is part of the supplement: Abstracts from the Twenty Second Annual Computational Neuroscience Meeting: CNS*2013

Open Access Open Badges Poster presentation

Decoding spiking activity in V4, but not V1, correlates with behavioural performance in perceptual learning task

Scott C Lowe1*, Xing Chen2, Mark CW van Rossum1, Stefano Panzeri3 and Alexander Thiele2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Adaptive and Neural Computation, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH8 9AB, UK

2 Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH, UK

3 Dept of Psychology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QB, UK

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BMC Neuroscience 2013, 14(Suppl 1):P385  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-14-S1-P385

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:8 July 2013

© 2013 Lowe et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Poster presentation

When an individual repeatedly performs a simple sensory task, such as discrimination between similar visual stimuli, performance gradually increases until it asymptotically approaches saturation. This phenomenon is known as perceptual learning, however the neural correlates of this process are not well understood. Here we consider the results of an experiment in perceptual learning of visual contrast discrimination in cortical areas V1 and V4.

In the experiment, a Gabor (V4 recordings) or sinusoidal (V1 recordings) stimulus, with a contrast chosen at random from a set of 14 possibilities, was presented to a macaque monkey. Recordings were made using chronically implanted electrodes in a multi-unit array. The animal was tasked with determining whether the contrast was higher or lower than a control stimulus of 30% contrast, and a correct response was met with a water reward. Experimentation continued for ~20 days until performance saturated.

A population-wide linear-discriminant decoding technique based on the mean firing rates during 500ms of stimulus presentation from ~20 channels in V4 was found to achieve similar levels of performance at completing the discrimination task, and to yield a similar rate of improvement in performance, as the monkey's behavioural responses. However, the same analysis in V1 found decoder performance was the same throughout the learning process, despite the animal's improvement in performance. This suggests contrast information present in V1 remains consistent throughout learning, whilst V4 improves in its ability to readout this information from V1.


This work was supported in part by grants EP/F500385/1 and BB/F529254/1 for the University of Edinburgh School of Informatics Doctoral Training Centre in Neuroinformatics and Computational Neuroscience ( from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and the UK Medical Research Council (MRC).


  1. Bejjanki VR, Beck JM, Lu Z-L, Pouget A: Perceptual learning as improved probabilistic inference in early sensory areas.

    Nat Neurosci 2011, 14(5):642-648. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL