More gamma more predictions: Gamma-synchronization as a key mechanism for efficient integration of classical receptive field inputs with surround predictions
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During visual stimulation, neurons in visual cortex often exhibit rhythmic and synchronous firing in the gamma-frequency (30–90 Hz) band. Whether this phenomenon plays a functional role during visual processing is not fully clear and remains heavily debated. In this article, we explore the function of gamma-synchronization in the context of predictive and efficient coding theories. These theories hold that sensory neurons utilize the statistical regularities in the natural world in order to improve the efficiency of the neural code, and to optimize the inference of the stimulus causes of the sensory data. In visual cortex, this relies on the integration of classical receptive field (CRF) data with predictions from the surround. Here we outline two main hypotheses about gamma-synchronization in visual cortex. First, we hypothesize that the precision of gamma-synchronization reflects the extent to which CRF data can be accurately predicted by the surround. Second, we hypothesize that different cortical columns synchronize to the extent that they accurately predict each other’s CRF visual input. We argue that these two hypotheses can account for a large number of empirical observations made on the stimulus dependencies of gamma-synchronization. Furthermore, we show that they are consistent with the known laminar dependencies of gamma-synchronization and the spatial profile of intercolumnar gamma-synchronization, as well as the dependence of gamma-synchronization on experience and development. Based on our two main hypotheses, we outline two additional hypotheses. First, we hypothesize that the precision of gamma-synchronization shows, in general, a negative dependence on RF size. In support, we review evidence showing that gamma-synchronization decreases in strength along the visual hierarchy, and tends to be more prominent in species with small V1 RFs. Second, we hypothesize that gamma-synchronized network dynamics facilitate the emergence of spiking output that is particularly information-rich and sparse. © 2016 Vinck and Bosman.
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