Surround modulation (SM) is a fundamental property of sensory neurons in many species and sensory modalities. SM is the ability of stimuli in the surround of a neuron's receptive field (RF) to modulate (typically suppress) the neuron's response to stimuli simultaneously presented inside the RF, a property thought to underlie optimal coding of sensory information and important perceptual functions. Understanding the circuit and mechanisms for SM can reveal fundamental principles of computations in sensory cortices, from mouse to human. Current debate is centered over whether feedforward or intracortical circuits generate SM, and whether this results from increased inhibition or reduced excitation. Here we present a working hypothesis, based on theoretical and experimental evidence, that SM results from feedforward, horizontal, and feedback interactions with local recurrent connections, via synaptic mechanisms involving both increased inhibition and reduced recurrent excitation. In particular, strong and balanced recurrent excitatory and inhibitory circuits play a crucial role in the computation of SM.


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