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Figure-ground modulation in awake primate thalamus

Jones, Helen E., Andolina, Ian M., Shipp, Stewart D., Adams, Daniel L., Cudeiro, Javier, Salt, Thomas E., Sillito, Adam M.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2015 v.112 no.22 pp. 7085-7090
Primates, thalamus, vision
Figure-ground discrimination refers to the perception of an object, the figure, against a nondescript background. Neural mechanisms of figure-ground detection have been associated with feedback interactions between higher centers and primary visual cortex and have been held to index the effect of global analysis on local feature encoding. Here, in recordings from visual thalamus of alert primates, we demonstrate a robust enhancement of neuronal firing when the figure, as opposed to the ground, component of a motion-defined figure-ground stimulus is located over the receptive field. In this paradigm, visual stimulation of the receptive field and its near environs is identical across both conditions, suggesting the response enhancement reflects higher integrative mechanisms. It thus appears that cortical activity generating the higher-order percept of the figure is simultaneously reentered into the lowest level that is anatomically possible (the thalamus), so that the signature of the evolving representation of the figure is imprinted on the input driving it in an iterative process.