The determination of trigger features of single neurons in afferent pathways has been one of the central problems in sensory physiology. A novel method, called Alopex, has been developed, in which response feedback is used to construct visual patterns that optimize the responses. Data are presented which show the emergence of trigger features of cells monitored in frog visual tectum. The method id checked against results obtained by scanning the visual field with a small spot. Correlations between Alopex pattern and scann patterns are generally between 0.3 and 0.5 but may be as high as 0.9 when smoothing and/or averaging procedures are applied to the Alopex patterns. The dynamics of the Alopex process are discussed and details of the algorithms are presented. The series of experiments presented here has established the validity of the method and suggests that this approach should find wide application in receptive field studies. For that purpose data on the instrumentation and software are also presented.
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