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Keywords:

  • area 17;
  • ocular dominance columns;
  • maps;
  • interocular suppression;
  • [3H]proline

Abstract

In the course of experiments studying the organization of ocular dominance columns in the visual cortex of cats, we noticed that—contrary to common belief—labelling with 2-deoxyglucose after monocular stimulation failed to induce a pattern of ocular dominance columns but resulted in a rather homogeneous 2-deoxyglucose uptake throughout area 17 in anaesthetized and paralysed animals. We wondered whether 2-deoxyglucose columns could be obtained in awake animals and/or in strabismic animals, which have a more pronounced segregation of ocular dominance columns. To this end, we investigated 2-deoxyglucose patterns after monocular stimulation in three groups of animals: (i) in awake normally reared cats, (ii) in awake strabismic cats and (iii) in anaesthetized and paralysed strabismic cats. Additionally, we labelled ocular dominance columns with intraocular [3H]proline injections. In all cats, monocular stimulation induced 2-deoxyglucose patterns that were in precise register with the proline-labelled ocular dominance columns in layer IV. Regions of increased 2-deoxyglucose uptake extended in a columnar fashion through all cortical layers. In contrast to normally reared animals, in strabismic cats, the expression of 2-deoxyglucose labelled ocular dominance columns was not abolished by anaesthesia or paralysis. However, there was a difference between the 2-deoxyglucose patterns in the awake normally reared cats and the strabismic animals. In the former, the patches of 2-deoxyglucose labelling were smaller and occupied less territory than the afferents of the stimulated eye in layer IV. Together with the results of the previous study, these data indicate that in awake normally reared and in awake and anaesthetized strabismic cats, but not in anaesthetized and paralysed normally reared animals, monocular stimulation activates selectively neurons in columns that are in register with the termination sites of afferents from the stimulated eye. This suggests the existence of a mechanism in normally reared animals which restricts cortical activation after monocular stimulation to territories that are in register with the afferents from the stimulated eye. This mechanism appears to be effective only when the animals are awake and actively exploring their environment. This and the fact that the active columns were narrower than the terminal fields of the stimulated eye suggest an active inhibitory process, perhaps related to mechanisms of selective attention. The observation that ocular dominance columns persist in strabismic cats even under anaesthesia can be accounted for by the lack of binocular convergence in these animals.