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In the primate visual cortex, neurons signal differences in the appearance of objects with high precision. However, not all activated neurons contribute directly to perception. We defined the perceptual pool in extrastriate visual area V5/MT for a stereo-motion task, based on trial-by-trial co-variation between perceptual decisions and neuronal firing (choice probability (CP)). Macaque monkeys were trained to discriminate the direction of rotation of a cylinder, using the binocular depth between the moving dots that form its front and rear surfaces. We manipulated the activity of single neurons trial-to-trial by introducing task-irrelevant stimulus changes: dot motion in cylinders was aligned with neuronal preference on only half the trials, so that neurons were strongly activated with high firing rates on some trials and considerably less activated on others. We show that single neurons maintain high neurometric sensitivity for binocular depth in the face of substantial changes in firing rate. CP was correlated with neurometric sensitivity, not level of activation. In contrast, for individual neurons, the correlation between perceptual choice and neuronal activity may be fundamentally different when responding to different stimulus versions. Therefore, neuronal pools supporting sensory discrimination must be structured flexibly and independently for each stimulus configuration to be discriminated.This article is part of the themed issue 'Vision in our three-dimensional world'.

Original publication




Journal article


Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

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Rhesus monkey, binocular disparity, extrastriate, primate, visual cortex