Activity of primate V1 cortical neurons during blinks

Academic Article


  • Every time we blink our eyes, the image on the retina goes almost completely dark. And yet we hardly notice these interruptions, even though an external darkening is startling. Intuitively it would seem that if our perception is continuous, then the neuronal activity on which our perceptions are based should also be continuous. To explore this issue, we compared the responses of 63 supragranular V1 neurons recorded from two awake monkeys for four conditions: 1) constant stimulus, 2) during a reflex blink, 3) during a gap in the visual stimulus, and 4) during an external darkening when an electrooptical shutter occluded the entire scene. We show here that the activity of neurons in visual cortical area V1 is essentially shut off during a blink. In the 100-ms epoch starting 70 ms after the stimulus was interrupted, the firing rate was 27.2 ± 2.7 spikes/s (SE) for a constant stimulus, 8.2 ± 0.9 spikes/s for a reflex blink, 17.3 ± 1.9 spikes/s for a gap, and 12.7 ± 1.4 spikes/s for an external darkening. The responses during a blink are less than during an external darkening (P < 0.05, t-test). However, many of these neurons responded with a transient burst of activity to the onset of an external darkening and not to a blink, suggesting that it is the suppression of this transient which causes us to ignore blinks. This is consistent with other studies where the presence of transient bursts of activity correlates with the perceived visibility of a stimulus.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Gawne TJ; Martin JM
  • Start Page

  • 2691
  • End Page

  • 2694
  • Volume

  • 84
  • Issue

  • 5