Studies of functional connectivity in the developing and mature visual cortex

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We have investigated several aspects of cortical organization in adult cats and in young kittens. First, we determined receptive field (RF) maps of correlated discharge between pairs of cortical cells. Unique bicellular RFs appear to convey high resolution information. Second, we studied the dynamics of neural interaction between pairs of cells. Using cross-correlation analysis, we studied monosynaptic and polysynaptic interactions in both kittens nod cats. A somewhat surprising finding is that there were no cases of monosynaptic excitation from simple to complex cells as would be predicted by a simple hierarchical processing theory. Third, we studied length and side tuning characteristics of cortical cells and worked out the relationships between them. Fourth, we carried out an investigation of binocular processing in which we compared monocular and binocular sensitivity of cortical cells with respect to contrast. Our results are comparable to those found in psychophysical work. Fifth, we examined how stereoscopic depth information is encoded by simple cells in the visual cortex. We show that structural differences in RFs of left and right eyes may be expressed in terms of phase. Phase-based encoding appears to be a Very plausible alternative to the standard position-based notion. Sixth, we attempted to induce plastic changes in connections between cell pairs by long-term activation (up to 2 h) in kittens and cats. Although connection strength between some cell pairs was increased during long-term activation, there was no consistent pattern of this effect. Seventh, we attempted to study the functional basis of reported claims of RF expansion following use of an artificial scotoma. However, we found no receptive field size change from this procedure. For some cells, there is an apparent change of gain in the form of base (spontaneous) rates and absolute response levels. Finally, we have examined RF dynamics in the central visual pathways. The standard treatment of RFs is to consider only spatial aspects. But the RF is inherently both temporal and spatial in nature and we have examined the dynamics of spatiotemporal organization of RFs in central visual pathways.




Freeman, R. D. (1996). Studies of functional connectivity in the developing and mature visual cortex. In Journal of Physiology Paris (Vol. 90, pp. 199–203). Elsevier Masson SAS.

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