Adaptation changes the spatial frequency tuning of adult cat visual cortex neurons
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The modular layout of striate cortex is arguably a hallmark of all cortical organization. Neurons of a given module or domain respond optimally to very few specific properties, such as orientation or direction. However, it is possible, under appropriate conditions, to compel a neuron to respond preferentially to a different optimal property. In anesthetized cats, prepared for electrophysiological recordings in the visual cortex, we applied a spatial frequency (SF) that differs (by 0.25–3.0 octaves) from the optimal one for 7–13 min without interruption. This application shifted the tuning curve of the cell mainly in the direction of the imposed SF. Indeed, results indicate an attractive push occurring more frequently (50%) than a repulsive (30%) shift in cortical cells. The increase of responsivity is band-limited and is around the imposed SF, while flanked responses remained unmodified in all conditions. We hypothesize that the observed reversible plasticity is obtained by a modulation of the balance between the strengths of the respective synaptic inputs. These changes in preferred original optimal spatial frequencies may allow a dynamic reaction of cortex to a new environment and particularly to ‘‘zoom’’ cellular activity toward persistent stimuli in spite of the tuning inherited from genetic programming of response properties and environmental conditions during critical periods in new born animals.
KeywordsVisual cortex Short term plasticity Spatial frequency tuning Vision
The authors thank Drs. M. Anctil and S. Itaya for insightful comments. The research is supported by NSERC Canada.
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