Development of cortical orientation selectivity in the absence of visual experience with contour

J Neurophysiol. 2011 Oct;106(4):1923-32. doi: 10.1152/jn.00095.2011. Epub 2011 Jul 13.


Visual cortical neurons are selective for the orientation of lines, and the full development of this selectivity requires natural visual experience after eye opening. Here we examined whether this selectivity develops without seeing lines and contours. Juvenile ferrets were reared in a dark room and visually trained by being shown a movie of flickering, sparse spots. We found that despite the lack of contour visual experience, the cortical neurons of these ferrets developed strong orientation selectivity and exhibited simple-cell receptive fields. This finding suggests that overt contour visual experience is unnecessary for the maturation of orientation selectivity and is inconsistent with the computational models that crucially require the visual inputs of lines and contours for the development of orientation selectivity. We propose that a correlation-based model supplemented with a constraint on synaptic strength dynamics is able to account for our experimental result.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Darkness
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual
  • Ferrets
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology
  • Learning / physiology
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Motion Pictures
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Restraint, Physical
  • Sensory Deprivation
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / growth & development
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*