Neural Mechanisms for Processing Binocular Information I. Simple Cells
The visual system integrates information from the left and right eyes and constructs a visual world that is perceived as single and three dimensional. To understand neural mechanisms underlying this process, it is important to learn about how signals from the two eyes interact at the level of single neurons. Using a sophisticated receptive field (RF) mapping technique that employs binary m-sequences, we have determined the rules of binocular interactions exhibited by simple cells in the cat’s striate cortex in relation to the structure of their monocular RFs. We find that binocular interaction RFs of most simple cells are well described as the product of left and right eye RFs. Therefore the binocular interactions depend not only on binocular disparity but also on monocular stimulus position or phase. The binocular interaction RF is consistent with that predicted by a model of a linear binocular filter followed by a static nonlinearity. The static nonlinearity is shown to have a shape of a half-power function with an average exponent of ∼2. Although the initial binocular convergence of signals is linear, the static nonlinearity makes binocular interaction multiplicative at the output of simple cells. This multiplicative binocular interaction is a key ingredient for the computation of interocular cross-correlation, an algorithm for solving the stereo correspondence problem. Therefore simple cells may perform initial computations necessary to solve this problem.