Journal of Neurophysiology vol:97 issue:4 pages:2900-2916
We used rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) to examine the tuning of macaque inferior temporal cortical (IT) neurons to five sets of 25 shapes each that varied systematically along predefined shape dimensions. A comparison of the RSVP technique using 100-ms presentations with that using a longer duration showed that shape preference can be determined with RSVP. Using relatively complex shapes that vary along relatively simple shape dimensions, we found that the large majority of neurons preferred extremes of the shape configuration, extending the results of a previous study using simpler shapes and a standard testing paradigm. A population analysis of the neuronal responses demonstrated that, in general, IT neurons can represent the similarities among the shapes at an ordinal level, extending a previous study that used a smaller number of shapes and a categorization task. However, the same analysis showed that IT neurons do not faithfully represent the physical similarities among the shapes. The responses to the two-part shapes could be predicted, virtually perfectly, from the average of the responses to the respective two parts presented in isolation. We also showed that IT neurons adapt to the stimulus distribution statistics. The neural shape discrimination improved when a shape set with a narrower stimulus range was presented, suggesting that the tuning of IT neurons is not static but adapts to the stimulus distribution statistics, at least when stimulated at a high rate with a restricted set of stimuli.