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J Comp Neurol. 1997 Oct 27;387(3):358-70.

Optically imaged maps of orientation preference in primary visual cortex of cats and ferrets.

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Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, USA.


Feature maps in the cerebral cortex constitute orderly representations of response features created within the cortex; an example is the mapping of orientation-selective neurons in visual cortex. We have compared the properties of orientation maps in area 17 of cats and ferrets, obtained by optical imaging of intrinsic signals. Orientation maps in both species contain a quasi-periodic distribution of iso-orientation domains that are organized into a lattice of pinwheels. However, the spatial density of orientation domains and of pinwheels in ferret area 17 is nearly twice that in cat area 17. The ferret map also contains more discontinuities, or fractures, where orientation changes abruptly. The size of orientation domains scales with interdomain spacing, so that the ratio of the two is approximately the same in both species. Consistent with this finding, the orientation tuning width of individual pixels is similar in the two. The magnitude of orientation preference, however, is much lower in ferret compared to cat. The greater incidence of fractures in ferret appears to be due to proportionately greater overlap between domains of different orientations, particularly along fracture lines that link pinwheel centers. We hypothesize that a key determinant of orientation maps, the relationship between orientation domain size and spacing, expresses an anatomical link between sizes of thalamocortical arbors and horizontal intracortical connections in area 17.

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