Spatial specificity and inheritance of adaptation in human visual cortex

Jonas Larsson, Sarah Harrison

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Adaptation at early stages of sensory processing can be propagated to downstream areas. Such inherited adaptation is a potential confound for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques that use selectivity of adaptation to infer neuronal selectivity. However, the relative contributions of inherited and intrinsic adaptation at higher cortical stages, and the impact of inherited adaptation on downstream processing, remain unclear. Using fMRI, we investigated how adaptation to visual motion direction and orientation influences visually evoked responses in human V1 and extrastriate visual areas. To dissociate inherited from intrinsic adaptation, we quantified the spatial specificity of adaptation for each visual area as a measure of the receptive field sizes of the area where adaptation originated, predicting that adaptation originating in V1 should be more spatially specific than adaptation intrinsic to extrastriate visual cortex. In most extrastriate visual areas, the spatial specificity of adaptation did not differ from that in V1, suggesting that adaptation originated in V1. Only in one extrastriate area - MT - was the spatial specificity of direction-selective adaptation significantly broader than in V1, consistent with a combination of inherited V1 adaptation and intrinsic MT adaptation. Moreover, inherited adaptation effects could be both facilitatory and suppressive. These results suggest that adaptation at early visual processing stages can have widespread and profound effects on responses in extrastriate visual areas, placing important constraints on the use of fMRI adaptation techniques, while also demonstrating a general experimental strategy for systematically dissociating inherited from intrinsic adaptation by fMRI.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1211-1226
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number2
Early online date1 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015

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