Horizontal Interactions in Cat Striate Cortex: I. Anatomical Substrate and Postnatal Development


Correspondence to: W. Singer, as above


The system of tangential connections was studied in area 17 of normally reared (NR), binocularly deprived (BD) and dark-reared (DR) kittens and adult cats. Connections were labelled antero- and retrogradely by intracortical micro-injections of several fluorescent markers and horseradish peroxidase conjugated with wheat-germ agglutinin (WGA-HRP). In 5-day-old kittens tangential connections consist of homogeneously distributed fibres extending maximally over 2.7 mm. Around postnatal day (pnd) ten these connections start to express the patchy pattern characteristic of the adult. Retrogradely stained somata and anterogradely labelled terminals become organized in individual 300 to 350 μm wide clusters with a centre-to-centre spacing of about 500 μm. During the first three postnatal weeks the horizontal connections increase their span to up to 10.5 mm and the spacing between individual patches increases to about 700 μm. Over the following 4 weeks these projections become reduced in length and number. In adult NR cats, tangential connections span a distance of up to 3 mm and form a lattice of 200–500 μm wide clusters, which have an average centre-to-centre spacing of 1050 μm. Tangential connections originate and terminate in all cortical laminae except layer I and they are organized in register. The distances spanned are largest in supragranular, intermediate in infragranular and shortest in granular layers. In BD and DR cats older than 10 weeks, the length of intracortical tangential fibres becomes reduced to the same extent as in NR animals, but individual clusters are less numerous. The authors conclude that the lattice-like structure of lateral connections evolves independently of visual experience, and that the selectivity of interactions results from pruning of initially exuberant connections. It is suggested that this pruning process is dependent on activity and influenced by visual experience.