Top-Down Inputs Enhance Orientation Selectivity in Neurons of the Primary Visual Cortex during Perceptual Learning. Moldakarimov S, Bazhenov M, Sejnowski TJ. PLoS Comput Biol. 2014 Aug 14.

Perceptual learning has been used to probe the mechanisms of cortical plasticity in the adult brain. Feedback projections are ubiquitous in the cortex, but little is known about their role in cortical plasticity. Here we explore the hypothesis that learning visual orientation discrimination involves learning-dependent plasticity of top-down feedback inputs from higher cortical areas, serving a different function from plasticity due to changes in recurrent connections within a cortical area. In a Hodgkin-Huxley-based spiking neural network model of visual cortex, we show that modulation of feedback inputs to V1 from higher cortical areas results in shunting inhibition in V1 neurons, which changes the response properties of V1 neurons. The orientation selectivity of V1 neurons is enhanced without changing orientation preference, preserving the topographic organizations in V1. These results provide new insights to the mechanisms of plasticity in the adult brain, reconciling apparently inconsistent experiments and providing a new hypothesis for a functional role of the feedback connections.