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Patrick Williams - Muhlenberg College. Allentown, PA, US

Patrick Williams

Assistant Professor of Biology and Neuroscience | Muhlenberg College

Allentown, PA, United-States

Patrick Williams research focuses on neuronal coding of visual stimuli in an insect model, and the physiology of neural circuits.





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Areas of Expertise (5)

Neurology Neuronal Coding Physiology of Neural Circuits Biology Neuroprosthetics

Education (2)

New York University: Ph.D., Neural Science

Carnegie Mellon University: B.S., Biology

Articles (2)

Stimulus ensemble and cortical layer determine V1 spatial receptive fields Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America


The concept of receptive field is a linear, feed-forward view of visual signal processing. Frequently used models of V1 neurons, like the dynamic linear filter static nonlinearity Poisson spike encoder model, predict that receptive fields measured with different stimulus ensembles should be similar. Here, we tested this concept by comparing spatiotemporal maps of V1 neurons derived from two very different, but commonly used, stimulus ensembles: sparse noise and Hartley subspace stimuli. We found maps from the two methods agreed for neurons in input layer 4C but were very different for neurons in superficial layers of V1. Many layer 2/3 cells have receptive fields with multiple elongated subregions when mapped with Hartley stimuli, but their spatial maps collapse to only a single, less-elongated subregion when mapped with sparse noise. Moreover, for upper layer V1 neurons, the preferred orientation for Hartley maps is much closer to the preferred orientation measured with drifting gratings than is the orientation preference of sparse-noise maps. These results challenge the concept of a stimulus-invariant receptive field and imply that intracortical interactions shape fundamental properties of layer 2/3 neurons.

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A Dynamic Nonlinearity and Spatial Phase Specificity in Macaque V1 Neurons The Journal of Neuroscience


While studying the visual response dynamics of neurons in the macaque primary visual cortex (V1), we found a nonlinearity of temporal response that influences the visual functions of V1 neurons. Simple cells were recorded in all layers of V1; the nonlinearity was strongest in neurons located in layer 2/3. We recorded the spike responses to optimal sinusoidal gratings that were displayed for 100 ms, a temporal step response. The step responses were measured at many spatial phases of the grating stimulus. To judge whether simple cell behavior was consistent with linear temporal integration, the decay of the 100 ms step response at the preferred spatial phase was used to predict the step response at the opposite spatial phase. Responses in layers 4B and 4C were mostly consistent with a linear-plus-static-nonlinearity cascade model. However, this was not true in layer 2/3 where most cells had little or no step responses at the opposite spatial phase. Many layer 2/3 cells had transient preferred-phase responses but did not respond at the offset of the opposite-phase stimuli, indicating a dynamic nonlinearity. A different stimulus sequence, rapidly presented random sinusoids, also produced the same effect, with layer 2/3 simple cells exhibiting elevated spike rates in response to stimuli at one spatial phase but not 180° away. The presence of a dynamic nonlinearity in the responses of V1 simple cells indicates that first-order analyses often capture only a fraction of neuronal behavior. The visual implication of our results is that simple cells in layer 2/3 are spatial phase-sensitive detectors that respond to contrast boundaries of one sign but not the opposite.

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