Visual Neuroscience

Optical imaging of orientation and ocular dominance maps in area 17 of cats with convergent strabismus

a1 Leibniz-Institut für Neurobiologie, D-39118 Magdeburg, Germany


Strabismus (or squint) is both a well-established model for developmental plasticity of the brain and a frequent clinical symptom. While the layout and topographic relationship of functional domains in area 17 of divergently squinting cats has been analyzed extensively in recent years (e.g. Löwel et al., 1998), functional maps in convergently squinting animals have so far not been visualized with comparable detail. We have therefore investigated the functional organization of area 17 in adult cats with a surgically induced convergent squint angle. In these animals, visual acuity was determined by both behavioral tests and recordings of visual evoked potentials, and animals with comparable acuities in both eyes were selected for further experiments. The functional layout of area 17 was visualized using optical imaging of intrinsic signals. Monocular iso-orientation domains had a patchy appearance and their layout was different for left and right eye stimulation, so that segregated ocular dominance domains could be visualized. Iso-orientation domains exhibited a pinwheel-like organization, as previously described for normal and divergently squinting cats. Mean pinwheel density was the same in the experimental and control animals (3.4 pinwheel centers per mm2 cortical surface), but significantly (P < 0.00001) higher than that reported previously for normal and divergently squinting cats (2.7/mm2). A comparison of orientation with ocular dominance maps revealed that iso-orientation domains were continuous across the borders of ocular dominance domains and tended to intersect these borders at steep angles. However, in contrast to previous reports in normally raised cats, orientation pinwheel centers showed no consistent topographical relationship to the peaks of ocular dominance domains. Taken together, these observations indicate an overall similarity between the functional layout of orientation and ocular dominance maps in area 17 of convergently and divergently squinting cats. The higher pinwheel densities compared with previous reports suggest that animals from different gene pools might generally differ in this parameter and therefore also in the space constants of their cortical orientation maps.

(Received August 20 2001)
(Accepted December 10 2001)

Key Words: Cat; Visual cortex; Functional domains; Optical imaging; Squint; Esotropia.

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Siegrid Löwel, Leibniz-Institut für Neurobiologie, Forschergruppe “Visuelle Entwicklung und Plastizität”, Brenneckestrasse 6, D-39118 Magdeburg, Germany. E-mail