Development of maps of simple and complex cells in the primary visual cortex

Front Comput Neurosci. 2011 Apr 13;5:17. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2011.00017. eCollection 2011.


Hubel and Wiesel (1962) classified primary visual cortex (V1) neurons as either simple, with responses modulated by the spatial phase of a sine grating, or complex, i.e., largely phase invariant. Much progress has been made in understanding how simple-cells develop, and there are now detailed computational models establishing how they can form topographic maps ordered by orientation preference. There are also models of how complex cells can develop using outputs from simple cells with different phase preferences, but no model of how a topographic orientation map of complex cells could be formed based on the actual connectivity patterns found in V1. Addressing this question is important, because the majority of existing developmental models of simple-cell maps group neurons selective to similar spatial phases together, which is contrary to experimental evidence, and makes it difficult to construct complex cells. Overcoming this limitation is not trivial, because mechanisms responsible for map development drive receptive fields (RF) of nearby neurons to be highly correlated, while co-oriented RFs of opposite phases are anti-correlated. In this work, we model V1 as two topographically organized sheets representing cortical layer 4 and 2/3. Only layer 4 receives direct thalamic input. Both sheets are connected with narrow feed-forward and feedback connectivity. Only layer 2/3 contains strong long-range lateral connectivity, in line with current anatomical findings. Initially all weights in the model are random, and each is modified via a Hebbian learning rule. The model develops smooth, matching, orientation preference maps in both sheets. Layer 4 units become simple cells, with phase preference arranged randomly, while those in layer 2/3 are primarily complex cells. To our knowledge this model is the first explaining how simple cells can develop with random phase preference, and how maps of complex cells can develop, using only realistic patterns of connectivity.

Keywords: complex cells; computational; cortex; development; model; simple cells; topographic maps; visual.