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Spatial integration and cortical dynamics.

  • C D Gilbert
  • A Das
  • M Ito
  • M Kapadia
  • G Westheimer
Publication Date
Jan 23, 1996
  • Physics


Cells in adult primary visual cortex are capable of integrating information over much larger portions of the visual field than was originally thought. Moreover, their receptive field properties can be altered by the context within which local features are presented and by changes in visual experience. The substrate for both spatial integration and cortical plasticity is likely to be found in a plexus of long-range horizontal connections, formed by cortical pyramidal cells, which link cells within each cortical area over distances of 6-8 mm. The relationship between horizontal connections and cortical functional architecture suggests a role in visual segmentation and spatial integration. The distribution of lateral interactions within striate cortex was visualized with optical recording, and their functional consequences were explored by using comparable stimuli in human psychophysical experiments and in recordings from alert monkeys. They may represent the substrate for perceptual phenomena such as illusory contours, surface fill-in, and contour saliency. The dynamic nature of receptive field properties and cortical architecture has been seen over time scales ranging from seconds to months. One can induce a remapping of the topography of visual cortex by making focal binocular retinal lesions. Shorter-term plasticity of cortical receptive fields was observed following brief periods of visual stimulation. The mechanisms involved entailed, for the short-term changes, altering the effectiveness of existing cortical connections, and for the long-term changes, sprouting of axon collaterals and synaptogenesis. The mutability of cortical function implies a continual process of calibration and normalization of the perception of visual attributes that is dependent on sensory experience throughout adulthood and might further represent the mechanism of perceptual learning.

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