Horizontal Interactions in Cat Striate Cortex: III. Ectopic Receptive Fields and Transient Exuberance of Tangential Interactions


Correspondence to: W. Singer, as above


In this study the developmental changes of intracortical connectivity are related to changes of cortical receptor fields (RFs). The RFs of striate cortex neurons of 4- to 8.5-week-old kittens, reared under normal conditions (NR) or in a selective visual environment (SE), were analysed quantitatively and compared with adult cats. To unmask weak inputs from outside the conventional RF (CRF), cell excitability was raised by iontophoretic application of glutamate (GLU) and/or bicuculline methiodide (BIC) or by light stimulation of the CRF. Both the dominant discharge region (DDR) and the total RF (TRF) area were significantly larger in NR and SE kittens than in adult cats. Moreover, in kittens 18% of the cells had additional ectopic fields that were excitatory, had similar orientation preferences as the CRF, and ranged 4° to 23° from the centre of the CRF. In 74% of the cases the ectopic fields were direction-selective and 70% of them preferred stimuli moving toward the CRF. Ectopic fields occurred mainly in supragranular cells, were similarly frequent in simple and complex cells and slightly more frequent in SE (20.7%) than in NR (13.3%) kittens. In adult cats only one of 83 cells tested had an ectopic field. It is concluded that the age-dependent decrease in the RF size, the laminar distribution of cells having an ectopic RF, and the numerical reduction of these cells with age correlate well with the organization and postnatal pruning of tangential projections, suggesting that these contribute to the elaboration of specific response properties. Moreover, the authors infer from the early presence and from the selectivity of ectopic fields that the system of horizontal intrinsic connections mediates far-reaching, excitatory interactions between cortical neurons with similar functional properties and serves as a substrate for the processing of global aspects of visual patterns.