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Nature. 1986 May 15-21;321(6067):237-9.

A comparison of inhibition in orientation and spatial frequency selectivity of cat visual cortex.


Neurones in the visual cortex are highly selective for orientation and spatial frequency of visual stimuli. There is strong neurophysiological evidence that orientation selectivity is enhanced by inhibitory interconnections between columns in the cortex which have different orientation sensitivities, an idea which is supported by experiments using neuropharmacological manipulation or complex visual stimuli. It has also been proposed that selectivity for spatial frequency is mediated in part by a similar mechanism to that for orientation, although evidence for this is based on special use of visual stimuli, which hampers interpretation of the findings. We have therefore examined selectivity for both orientation and spatial frequency using a technique which allows direct inferences about inhibitory processes. Our method uses microiontophoresis of an excitatory amino acid to elevate maintained discharge of single neurones in the visual cortex. We then present visual stimuli both within and outside the range of orientations and spatial frequencies which cause a cell to respond with increased discharge. Our results show that orientations presented on either side of the responsive range usually produce clear suppression of maintained discharge. In marked contrast, spatial frequencies shown to either side of the responsive range have little or no effect on maintained activity. We conclude that there is an intracortical organization of inhibitory connections between cells tuned to different orientations but not different spatial frequencies.

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