A critical step in determining howaneuron contributes to visual processing is determining its visual receptive field(RF).While recording from neurons in frontaleye field (FEF)of awake monkeys (Macacamulatta),we probed the visual field with small spots of light and found excitatory RFs that decreased in strength from RF center to periphery. However, presenting stimuli with different diameters centered on the RF revealed suppressive surrounds that overlapped the previously determined excitatory RF and reduced responses by 84%, on average. Consequently, in that overlap area, stimulation produced excitation or suppression, depending on the stimulus. Strong stimulation of the RF periphery with annular stimuli allowed us to quantify this effect. A modified difference of Gaussians model that independently varied center and surround activation accounted for the nonlinear activity in the overlap area. Our results suggest that (1) the suppressive surrounds found in FEF are fundamentally the same as those in V1 except for the size and strength of excitatory and suppressive mechanisms, (2) methodically assaying suppressive surrounds in FEF is essential for correctly interpreting responses to large and/or peripheral stimuli and therefore understanding the effects of stimulus context, and (3) regulating the relative strength of the surround clearly changes neuronal responses and may therefore play a significant part in the neuronal changes resulting from visual attention and stimulus salience.
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