Time course of perceptual discrimination and single neuron reliability

E. Zohary*, P. Hillman, S. Hochstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The reliability of identification of a visual target increases with time available for inspection of the stimulus. We suggest that the neural basis of this improvement is the existence of a mechanism for integrating a noisy firing rate over some period, leading to a reduction in mean firing rate variance with available processing time. We have determined the experimental time course of the improvement in reliability in a parallel search task where the available inspection time is limited by the presentation of a mask at various times after a brief stimulus. We compare the resulting psychometric functions with the predictions of a model based on Signal Detection Theory. The model is based on the assumption that the reliability of the observer's response is limited by the variability of the responses of individual neurons. The reliability of the discrimination between two stimuli at the neuronal level is then directly related to the ratio of the difference between their integrated mean responses (over many trials) to the response standard deviation. This reliability increases with inspection time. To demonstrate application of the model to electrophysiological data, "neurometric functions" are derived from the firing rates of a monkey V1 cortical neuron. The data were obtained while the animal was active in a discrimination task. The results correspond qualitatively to our observed human psychometric functions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)475-486
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Cybernetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 1990


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