Fear-related signals in the primary visual cortex

Li, Zhihan, Yan, An, Guo, Kun and Li, Wu (2019) Fear-related signals in the primary visual cortex. Current Biology, 29 (23). pp. 4078-4083. ISSN 0960-9822

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.09.063

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Abstract

Neuronal responses in the primary visual cortex (V1) are driven by simple stimuli, but
these stimulus-evoked responses can be markedly modulated by non-sensory factors
such as attention and reward [1] and shaped by perceptual training [2]. In real-life
situations, neutral visual stimuli can become emotionally tagged by experience,
resulting in altered perceptual abilities to detect and discriminate these stimuli [3-5].
Human imaging [4] and electroencephalography (EEG) studies [6-9] have shown that
visual fear learning (the acquisition of aversive emotion associated with a visual
stimulus) affects the activities in visual cortical areas as early as V1. However, it
remains elusive whether the fear-related activities seen in the early visual cortex have
to do with feedback influences from other cortical areas; it is also unclear whether and
how the response properties of V1 cells are modified during the fear learning. In the
current study, we addressed these issues by recording from V1 of awake monkeys
implanted with an array of microelectrodes. We found that responses of V1 neurons
were rapidly modified when a given orientation of grating stimulus was repeatedly
associated with an aversive stimulus. The output visual signals from V1 cells conveyed,
from their response outset, fear-related signals that were specific to the fear-associated
grating orientation and visual-field location. The specific fear signals were independent
of neurons’ orientation preferences and were present even though the fear-associated
stimuli were rendered invisible. Our findings suggest a bottom-up mechanism that
allows for proactive labeling of visual inputs that are predictive of imminent danger.

Keywords:primary visual cortex, macaques, fear learning, orientation tuning, specificity
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C830 Experimental Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:37712
Deposited On:09 Oct 2019 13:07

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