Neural Representations of Natural and Scrambled Movies Progressively Change from Rat Striate to Temporal Cortex

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In recent years, the rodent has come forward as a candidate model for investigating higher level visual abilities such as object vision. This view has been backed up substantially by evidence from behavioral studies that show rats can be trained to express visual object recognition and categorization capabilities. However, almost no studies have investigated the functional properties of rodent extrastriate visual cortex using stimuli that target object vision, leaving a gap compared with the primate literature. Therefore, we recorded single-neuron responses along a proposed ventral pathway in rat visual cortex to investigate hallmarks of primate neural object representations such as preference for intact versus scrambled stimuli and category-selectivity. We presented natural movies containing a rat or no rat as well as their phase-scrambled versions. Population analyses showed increased dissociation in representations of natural versus scrambled stimuli along the targeted stream, but without a clear preference for natural stimuli. Along the measured cortical hierarchy the neural response seemed to be driven increasingly by features that are not V1-like and destroyed by phase-scrambling. However, there was no evidence for category selectivity for the rat versus nonrat distinction. Together, these findings provide insights about differences and commonalities between rodent and primate visual cortex.

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