Rat performance on visual detection task modeled with divisive normalization and adaptive decision thresholds

Deparment of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA.
Journal of Vision (Impact Factor: 2.39). 08/2011; 11(9). DOI: 10.1167/11.9.1
Source: PubMed


Performance on any perceptual task depends on both the perceptual capacity and the decision strategy of the subject. We provide a model to fit both aspects and apply it to data from rats performing a detection task. When rats must detect a faint visual target, the presence of other nearby stimuli ("flankers") increases the difficulty of the task. In this study, we consider two specific factors. First, flankers could diminish the sensory response to the target via spatial contrast normalization in early visual processing. Second, rats may treat the sensory signal caused by the flankers as if it belonged to the target. We call this source confusion, which may be sensory, cognitive, or both. We account for contrast normalization and source confusion by fitting model parameters to the likelihood of the observed behavioral data. We test multiple combinations of target and flanker contrasts using a yes/no detection task. Contrast normalization was crucial to explain the rats' flanker-induced detection impairment. By adding a decision variable to the contrast normalization framework, our model provides a new tool to assess differences in visual or cognitive brain function between normal and abnormal rodents.

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    • "Therefore, our system is expected to help extract pure neural correlates with specific behaviors under a stress-free situation. The visual tasks in the 2AFC paradigm allow us to study not only visual functions but also other higher order functions such as decision making (Busse et al. 2011; Meier and Reinagel 2011; Carandini and Churchland 2013) and memory (Soma et al. 2014). Since the basic concepts of our system can be applied to the teaching of tasks beyond visual ones, our training method is expected to be applicable to a wide range of research fields. "
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    ABSTRACT: The potential of genetically engineered rodent models has accelerated demand for training procedures of behavioral tasks. Such training is generally time consuming and often shows large variability in learning speed between animals. To overcome these problems, we developed an efficient and stable training system for the two-alternative forced-choice (2AFC) visual stimulus detection task for freely behaving rodents. To facilitate the task learning, we introduced a spout-lever as the operandum and a three-step training program with four ingenuities: (1) a salient stimulus to draw passive attention, (2) a reward-guaranteed trial to keep motivation, (3) a behavior-corrective trial, and (4) switching from a reward-guaranteed trial to a nonguaranteed one to correct behavioral patterns. Our new training system realizes 1-week completion of the whole learning process, during which all rats were able to learn effortlessly the association between (1) lever-manipulation and reward and (2) visual stimulus and reward in a step-by-step manner. Thus, our new system provides an effective and stable training method for the 2AFC visual stimulus detection task. This method should help accelerate the move toward research bridging the visual functions measured in behavioral tasks and the contributing specific neurons/networks that are genetically manipulated or optically controlled.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014
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    • "The rodent data is from the same trained rats and the same experimental protocol as previously reported (Experiment 1: Meier et al., 2011; Experiment 2: Meier and Reinagel, 2011) but the data have been analyzed differently. Specifically, we report performance with flankers in relation to each subject’s detection performance of the target alone. "
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    ABSTRACT: Behavioral studies in humans and rats demonstrate that visual detection of a target stimulus is sensitive to surrounding spatial patterns. In both species, the detection of an oriented visual target is affected when the surrounding region contains flanking stimuli that are collinear to the target. In many studies, collinear flankers have been shown to improve performance in humans, both absolutely (compared to performance with no flankers) and relative to non-collinear flankers. More recently, collinear flankers have been shown to impair performance in rats both absolutely and relative to non-collinear flankers. However, these observations spanned different experimental paradigms. Past studies in humans have shown that the magnitude and even sign of flanker effects can depend critically on the details of stimulus and task design. Therefore either task differences or species could explain the opposite findings. Here we provide a direct comparison of behavioral data between species and show that these differences persist - collinear flankers improve performance in humans, and impair performance in rats - in spite of controls that match stimuli, experimental paradigm, and learning procedure. There is evidence that the contrasts of the target and the flankers could affect whether surround processing is suppressive or facilitatory. In a second experiment, we explored a range of contrast conditions in the rat, to determine if contrast could explain the lack of collinear facilitation. Using different pairs of target and flanker contrast, the rat's collinear impairment was confirmed to be robust across a range of contrast conditions. We conclude that processing of collinear features is indeed different between rats and humans. We speculate that the observed difference between rat and human is caused by the combined impact of differences in the statistics in natural retinal images, the representational capacity of neurons in visual cortex, and attention.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · Frontiers in Neural Circuits
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    • "We study vision in Long-Evans rats because of their demonstrated ability to learn and reliably perform complex visual tasks [3], [8], [60], [61], [62], [63]. Our ultimate goal is to link visual behavior to neural encoding of visual stimuli in identified neural populations. "
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    ABSTRACT: The pigmented Long-Evans rat has proven to be an excellent subject for studying visually guided behavior including quantitative visual psychophysics. This observation, together with its experimental accessibility and its close homology to the mouse, has made it an attractive model system in which to dissect the thalamic and cortical circuits underlying visual perception. Given that visually guided behavior in the absence of primary visual cortex has been described in the literature, however, it is an empirical question whether specific visual behaviors will depend on primary visual cortex in the rat. Here we tested the effects of cortical lesions on performance of two-alternative forced-choice visual discriminations by Long-Evans rats. We present data from one highly informative subject that learned several visual tasks and then received a bilateral lesion ablating >90% of primary visual cortex. After the lesion, this subject had a profound and persistent deficit in complex image discrimination, orientation discrimination, and full-field optic flow motion discrimination, compared with both pre-lesion performance and sham-lesion controls. Performance was intact, however, on another visual two-alternative forced-choice task that required approaching a salient visual target. A second highly informative subject learned several visual tasks prior to receiving a lesion ablating >90% of medial extrastriate cortex. This subject showed no impairment on any of the four task categories. Taken together, our data provide evidence that these image, orientation, and motion discrimination tasks require primary visual cortex in the Long-Evans rat, whereas approaching a salient visual target does not.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2013 · PLoS ONE
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