Visual Neuroscience

Research Articles

Organization of ocular dominance and orientation columns in the striate cortex of neonatal macaque monkeys

Gary Blasdela1a2, Klaus Obermayera3a4 and Lynne Kiorpesa5

a1 Department of Physiology, University of Calgary, Calgary Alberta, Canada T2N-1N4

a2 Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston

a3 The Salk Institute, La Jolla

a4 The Rockefeller University, New York

a5 Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York


Previous work has shown that small, stimulus-dependent changes in light absorption can be used to monitor cortical activity, and to provide detailed maps of ocular dominance and optimal stimulus orientation in the striate cortex of adult macaque monkeys (Blasdel & Salama, 1986; Ts'o et al., 1990). We now extend this approach to infant animals, in which we find many of the organizational features described previously in adults, including patch-like linear zones, singularities, and fractures (Blasdel, 1992b), in animals as young as 3/12 weeks of age. Indeed, the similarities between infant and adult patterns are more compelling than expected. Patterns of ocular dominance and orientation, for example, show many of the correlations described previously in adults, including a tendency for orientation specificity to decrease in the centers of ocular dominance columns, and for iso-orientation contours to cross the borders of ocular dominance columns at angles of 90 deg. In spite of these similarities, there are differences, one of which entails the strength of ocular dominance signals, which appear weaker in the younger animals and which increase steadily with age. Another, more striking, difference concerns the widths of ocular dominance columns, which increase by 20% during the first 3 months of life. Since the cortical surface area increases by a comparable amount, during the same time, this 20% expansion implies that growth occurs anisotropically, perpendicular to the ocular dominance columns, as the cortical surface expands. Since the observed patterns of orientation preference expand more slowly, at approximately half this rate, these results also imply that ocular dominance and orientation patterns change their relationship, and may even drift past one another, as young animals mature.

(Received May 13 1994)

(Accepted November 30 1994)


Reprint requests to: Gary Blasdel, Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, 200 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.