Brain state and cortical layer-specific mechanisms underlying perception at threshold

  1. Department of Neuroscience, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511
  2. Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511
  3. Systems Neurobiology Laboratories, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA 92037
  4. Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511
  5. Wu Tsai Institute, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511
  6. Kavli Institute for Neuroscience, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511

Peer review process

Not revised: This Reviewed Preprint includes the authors’ original preprint (without revision), an eLife assessment, and public reviews.

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  • Reviewing Editor
    Joshua Gold
    University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States of America
  • Senior Editor
    Joshua Gold
    University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States of America

Reviewer #1 (Public Review):

In this study, Nandy and colleagues examine neural and behavioral correlates of perceptual variability in monkeys performing a visual change detection task. They used a laminar probe to record from area V4 while two macaque monkeys detected a small change in stimulus orientation that occurred at a random time in one of two locations, focusing their analysis on stimulus conditions where the animal was equally likely to detect (hit) or not-detect (miss) a briefly presented orientation change (target). They discovered two behavioral measures that are significantly different between hit and miss trials - pupil size tends to be slightly larger on hits vs. misses, and monkeys are more likely to miss the target on trials in which they made a microsaccade shortly before target onset. They also examined multiple measures of neural activity across the cortical layers and found some measures that are significantly different between hits and misses.

Overall the study is well executed and the analyses are appropriate (though multiple issues do need to be addressed).

My main concern with this study is that with the exception of the pre-target microsaccades, the physiological and behavioral correlates of perceptual variability (differences between hits and misses) appear to be very weak and disconnected. Some of these measures rely on complex analyses that are not hypothesis-driven and where statistical significance is difficult to assess. The more intuitive analysis of the predictive power of trial outcomes based on the behavioral and neural measures is only discussed at the end of the paper. This analysis shows that some of the significant measures have no predictive power, while others cannot be examined using the predictive power analysis because these measures cannot be estimated in single trials. Given these weak and disconnected effects, my overall sense is that the current results do not significantly advance our understanding of the neural basis of perceptual variability.

Reviewer #2 (Public Review):

In this manuscript, the authors conducted a study in which they measured eye movements, pupil diameter, and neural activity in V4 in monkeys engaged in a visual attention task. The task required the monkeys to report changes in the orientation of Gabors' visual stimuli. The authors manipulated the difficulty of the trials by varying the degree of orientation change and focused their analysis on trials of intermediate difficulty where the monkeys' hit rate was approximately 50%. Their key findings include the following: 1) Hit trials were preceded by larger pupil diameter, reflecting higher arousal, and by more stable eye positions; 2) V4 neurons exhibit larger visual responses in hit trials; 3) Superficial and deep layers exhibited greater coherence in hit trials during both the pre-target stimulus period and the non-target stimulus presentation period. These findings have useful implications for the field, and the experiments and analyses presented in this manuscript validly support the authors' claims.

The experiments were well-designed and executed with meticulous control. The analyses of both behavioural and electrophysiological data align with the standards in the field.

Many of the findings appear to be incremental compared to previous literature, including the authors' own work. While incremental findings are not necessarily a problem, the manuscript lacks clear statements about the extent to which the dataset, analysis, and findings overlap with the authors' prior research. For example, one of the main findings, which suggests that V4 neurons exhibit larger visual responses in hit trials (as shown in Fig. 3), appears to have been previously reported in their 2017 paper. Additionally, it seems that the entire Fig1-S1 may have been reused from the 2017 paper. These overlaps should have been explicitly acknowledged and correctly referenced.

Previous studies have demonstrated that attention leads to decorrelation in V4 population activity. The authors should have discussed how and why the high coherence across layers observed in the current study can coexist with this decorrelation.

Furthermore, the manuscript does not explore potentially interesting aspects of the dataset. For instance, the authors could have investigated instances where monkeys made 'false' reports, such as executing saccades towards visual stimuli when no orientation change occurred. It would be valuable to provide the fraction of the monkeys' responses in a session, including false reports and correct rejections in catch trials, to allow for a broader analysis that considers the perceptual component of neural activity over pure sensory responses.

  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  2. Wellcome Trust
  3. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
  4. Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation