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J Neurosci. 2012 Aug 8;32(32):11120-31. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6304-11.2012.

Long-range parallel processing and local recurrent activity in the visual cortex of the mouse.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106, USA.


The transfer of visual information from the primary visual cortex (V1) to higher order visual cortices is an essential step in visual processing. However, the dynamics of activation of visual cortices is poorly understood. In mice, several extrastriate areas surrounding V1 have been described. Using voltage-sensitive dye imaging in vivo, we determined the spatiotemporal dynamics of the activity evoked in the visual cortex by simple stimuli. Independently of precise areal boundaries, we found that V1 activation is rapidly followed by the depolarization of three functional groups of higher order visual areas organized retinotopically. After this sequential activation, all four regions were simultaneously active for most of the response. Concomitantly with the parallel processing of the visual input, the activity initiated retinotopically and propagated quickly and isotropically within each region. The size of this activation by local recurrent activity, which extended beyond the initial retinotopic response, was dependent on the intensity of the stimulus. Moreover the difference in the spatiotemporal dynamic of the response to dark and bright stimuli suggested the dominance in the mouse of the ON pathway. Our results suggest that the cortex integrates visual information simultaneously through across-area parallel and within-area serial processing.

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