It is widely accepted that functional maps in the mammalian visual cortex such as ocular dominance columns and orientation columns are formed depending on neural activity. There is still, however, controversy on how much visual experience contributes to the map formation during development. In the present study, we address this issue from mathematical modeling and experimental investigation. Using a model of activity-dependent self-organization of geniculo-cortical afferent inputs, we showed that spontaneous activity in the LGN can produce orientation maps, while the exposure to drifting gratings results in sharply segregated orientation maps as observed in cat visual cortex. The restricted exposure to a single orientation of the grating led to the over-representation of the exposed orientation, which was moderated by the contribution of learning based on the spontaneous activity. These theoretical results were confirmed by intrinsic optical recordings from area 18 of kittens reared under various visual conditions. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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