When blood vessels occlude the photoreceptor layer in the retina, they cast shadows onto the photoreceptors, creating angioscotomas (regions of the visual field to which that eye is blind). Remarkably, Adams and Horton (2002) have recently shown that it is sometimes possible to observe representations of these angioscotomas anatomically in the primary visual cortices of squirrel monkeys. However, there is substantial variability in the degree and form of these representations. The source of this variability is difficult to determine experimentally, because experimental studies are unavoidably limited by small sample size. In addition, experimental studies cannot compare the map structure that would develop with and without an angioscotoma. Here, we investigate these phenomena computationally using feature-mapping models of visual cortical development, which are not subject to the same limitations. These models suggest that the primary source of variability in angioscotoma representation is the precise timing of the onset of visual experience relative to the time course of ocular dominance column segregation. Furthermore, the models predict that angioscotomas could compete for control of local column layout with other influences such as cortical shape but that they have a small effect on the structure of orientation preference maps.
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