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Development of spatial receptive-field organization and orientation selectivity in kitten striate cortex

, : Development of spatial receptive-field organization and orientation selectivity in kitten striate cortex. Journal of Neurophysiology 53(5): 1158-1178

The functional organization of the receptive field of neurons in striate cortex of kittens from 8 days to 3 mo of age was studied by extracellular recordings. A quantitative dual-stimulus technique was used, which allowed for analysis of both enhancement and suppression zones in the receptive field. Furthermore the development of orientation selectivity was studied quantitatively in the same cells. Already in the youngest kittens the receptive fields were spatially organized like adult fields, with a central zone and adjacent flanks that responded in opposite manner to the light stimulus. The relative suppression in the subzones was as strong as in adult cells. Both simple and complex cells were found from 8 days. The receptive fields were like magnified adult fields. The width of the dominant discharge-field zone and the distance between the positions giving maximum discharge and maximum suppression decreased with age in the same proportions. The decrease could be explained by a corresponding decrease of the receptive-field-center size of retinal ganglion cells. Forty percent of the cells were orientation selective before 2 wk, and the fraction increased to 94% at 4 wk. Cells whose responses could be attenuated to at least half of the maximal response by changes of slit orientation were termed orientation selective. The half-width of the orientation-tuning curves narrowed during the first 5 wk, and this change was most marked in simple cells. The ability of the cells to discriminate between orientations in statistical terms was weak in the youngest kittens due to a large response variability, and showed a more pronounced development than the half-width did. The orientation-tuning curves were fitted by an exponential function, which showed the shape to be adultlike in all age groups. Two kittens were dark reared until recording at 1 mo of age. The spatial receptive-field organization and the orientation selectivity in these kittens were similar to normal-reared kittens at 1 mo. The responsivity of the cells of the dark-reared kittens was lower, and the latency before firing was longer than in the normal-reared kittens of the same age, and these response properties were more similar to those in 1- to 2-wk-old normal kittens. Our results indicate that the spatial organization of the receptive field is innate in most cells and that visual experience is unnecessary for the organization to be maintained and for the receptive-field width to mature during the first month postnatally.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)


PMID: 3998804

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