Research from the Dragoi Lab Published in Nature Communications

February 17, 2023

Sunny Nigam and Valentin Dragoi

Recent research from the lab of Valentin Dragoi, Ph.D. on the adaptive capacity of visual cortical populations has been published in the January edition of Nature Communications.

First author for the paper is Sunny Nigam, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow in the Dragoi Lab. Other contributing authors from the Dragoi lab are Russell Milton, Ph.D., and Sorin Pojoga, Ph.D.

They provide novel insight into how populations of neurons in the visual cortex undergo rapid plasticity at the same time scale of visual fixation to acquire visual information relevant to perception. The brain unconsciously accomplishes this task hundreds of thousands of times per day, and yet how this phenomenon manifests in the brain remains mysterious.

Their research showed for the first time that untuned neurons could play a significant role in the adaptive coding of sensory inputs, despite usually being ignored in most studies of cortical function. Furthermore, following cross-feature adaptation, the remaining neurons which were either tuned to color or orientation significantly improved their stimulus tuning.

“These results also demonstrate that a mechanism previously believed to operate under particular stimulus conditions, for example, within a single feature axis, operates at a much larger scale than scientists believed,” Dragoi said. “This means that our brain networks are continuously undergoing rapid adaptation to help improve vision across a wide range of stimuli encountered during natural viewing.”

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