Mechanisms underlying development of visual maps and receptive fields

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2008:31:479-509. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.31.060407.125533.


Patterns of synaptic connections in the visual system are remarkably precise. These connections dictate the receptive field properties of individual visual neurons and ultimately determine the quality of visual perception. Spontaneous neural activity is necessary for the development of various receptive field properties and visual feature maps. In recent years, attention has shifted to understanding the mechanisms by which spontaneous activity in the developing retina, lateral geniculate nucleus, and visual cortex instruct the axonal and dendritic refinements that give rise to orderly connections in the visual system. Axon guidance cues and a growing list of other molecules, including immune system factors, have also recently been implicated in visual circuit wiring. A major goal now is to determine how these molecules cooperate with spontaneous and visually evoked activity to give rise to the circuits underlying precise receptive field tuning and orderly visual maps.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Growth Cones / physiology*
  • Growth Cones / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism
  • Retina / embryology
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Visual Cortex / embryology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / embryology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*


  • Nerve Growth Factors