JournalPublicationSensory Systems

What and Where: Location-Dependent Feature Sensitivity as a Canonical Organizing Principle of the Visual System

Cortical circuits specialize to process different features of visual stimuli in different regions of space. This specialization depends on a species’ environment, movement through this environment, natural behaviors, and the position of their eyes in their head. A,B) modified with permission from ©2021 Dina Popovkina.

Traditionally, functional representations in early visual areas are conceived as retinotopic maps preserving ego-centric spatial location information while ensuring that other stimulus features are uniformly represented for all locations in space. Recent results challenge this framework of relatively independent encoding of location and features in the early visual system, emphasizing location-dependent feature sensitivities that reflect specialization of cortical circuits for different locations in visual space. Here we review the evidence for such location-specific encoding. We propose that location-dependent feature sensitivity is a fundamental organizing principle of the visual system that achieves efficient representation of positional regularities in visual experience, and reflects the evolutionary selection of sensory and motor circuits to optimally represent behaviorally relevant information. Future studies are necessary to discover mechanisms underlying joint encoding of location and functional information, how this relates to behavior, emerges during development, and varies across species.


Sedigh-Sarvestani, M., & Fitzpatrick, D. (2022). What and Where: Location-Dependent Feature Sensitivity as a Canonical Organizing Principle of the Visual System. Frontiers in Neural Circuits, 16.
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