We have studied the manner by which inputs from the two eyes are combined in complex cells of the cat's visual cortex. The stimuli are drifting sinusoidal gratings presented dichoptically at optimal spatial frequency and orientation. The relative phase between the gratings for left and right eyes is varied over 360 degrees. Approximately 40% of complex cells show phase-specific binocular interaction where response amplitudes vary depending on the relative phase of the gratings shown to the two eyes. This interaction is similar to that observed for most simple cells. We devised a test to examine whether the phase-specific interaction in complex cells results from linear convergence of neural signals at subunits of the receptive fields. The data from this test are consistent with a linear combination model. The phase-specific binocular interaction data from complex cells imply that the optimal relative phase of the receptive field subunits is closely matched. Another type of complex cell, approximately 40% of the total, could be driven through either eye, but exhibited non-phase-specific responses to dichoptically presented gratings. This type of interaction is found only in complex cells. Binocularly non-phase-specific complex cells may have subunits whose optimal relative phases are random or monocular. The division of complex cells into these two major groups (binocularly phase specific and non-phase specific) is independent of whether they are standard or special complex-cell types. A small proportion (8%) of complex cells that appear monocular by alternate tests of each eye show a purely inhibitory influence from the silent eye. This inhibition is not generally dependent on the relative phase of the gratings. Unlike simple cells, complex cells are not a homogeneous group. However, nearly half of complex cells show phase-specific binocular interaction that is probably the result of linear convergence. Combined with the results from simple cells, the majority of binocular interaction in the striate cortex may be accounted for by linear summation of neural signals from each eye. This provides a simplified view of the nature of binocular interaction in the visual cortex.
- Copyright © 1986 the American Physiological Society