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Khastkhodaei, Zeinab; Jurjut, Ovidiu; Katzner, Steffen ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4424-2197 and Busse, Laura ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6127-7754 (2016): Mice Can Use Second-Order, Contrast-Modulated Stimuli to Guide Visual Perception. In: Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 36, No. 16: pp. 4457-4469

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Visual processing along the primate ventral stream takes place in a hierarchy of areas, characterized by an increase in both complexity of neuronal preferences and invariance to changes of low-level stimulus attributes. A basic type of invariance is form-cue invariance, where neurons have similar preferences in response to first-order stimuli, defined by changes in luminance, and global features of second-order stimuli, defined by changes in texture or contrast. Whether in mice, a now popular model system for early visual processing, visual perception can be guided by second-order stimuli is currently unknown. Here, we probed mouse visual perception and neural responses in areas V1 and LM using various types of second-order, contrast-modulated gratings with static noise carriers. These gratings differ in their spatial frequency composition and thus in their ability to invoke first-order mechanisms exploiting local luminance features. We show that mice can transfer learning of a coarse orientation discrimination task involving first-order, luminance-modulated gratings to the contrast-modulated gratings, albeit with markedly reduced discrimination performance. Consistent with these behavioral results, we demonstrate that neurons in area V1 and LM are less responsive and less selective to contrast-modulated than to luminance-modulated gratings, but respond with broadly similar preferred orientations. We conclude that mice can, at least in a rudimentary form, use second-order stimuli to guide visual perception.

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