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Eur J Neurosci. 1997 Aug;9(8):1754-62.

Development of orientation preference maps in area 18 of kitten visual cortex.

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Max Planck Institut für Hirnforschung, Frankfurt/M, Germany.


We investigated the development of orientation preference maps in the visual cortex of kittens by repeated optical imaging from the same animal. Orientation maps became detectable for the first time around postnatal day (P) 17 and improved continuously in strength unitl P30, the time at which their appearance became adultlike. During this developmental period the overall geometry of the maps remained unchanged, suggesting that the layout of the orientation map is specified prior to P17. Hence, before the visual cortex becomes susceptible to experience-dependent modifications its functional architecture is largely specified. This suggests that the initial development and layout of orientation preference maps are determined by intrinsic processes that are independent of visual experience. This conclusion is further supported by the result that orientation maps were well expressed at P24 in binocularly deprived kittens. Because the appearance of the first orientation-selective neurons and the subsequent development of orientation preference maps correlated well with the time course of the expression and refinement of clustered horizontal connections, we propose that these connections might contribute to the specification of orientation preference maps.

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