Neurons in the primary visual cortex are selective for the direction of movement of a visual stimulus. Like other stimulus features, direction preference is mapped on the cortical surface in a systematic manner. Intracortical synaptic circuits, in particular inhibitory connections, have been implicated in the emergence of direction selectivity. Whether intracortical inhibition specifically suppresses responses to the nonpreferred direction or has a nonspecific "thresholding" effect is still controversial. To address these questions we investigated the relationship between patterns of intracortical synaptic connections and direction domains in ferret primary visual cortex (area 17) using a combined in vivo-in vitro approach. Excitatory synaptic inputs were iso-direction-tuned. The majority of local inhibitory inputs were also iso-direction-tuned. However, approximately 40% of inhibitory connections originated in regions preferring the opposite direction. These findings indicate that specific inhibitory interactions between cortical regions of opposite direction preference may contribute to the emergence and sharpening of direction selectivity.
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