Mechanisms of Orientation Selectivity in the Primary Visual Cortex

Annu Rev Vis Sci. 2016 Oct 14;2:85-107. doi: 10.1146/annurev-vision-111815-114456.


The mechanisms underlying the emergence of orientation selectivity in the visual cortex have been, and continue to be, the subjects of intense scrutiny. Orientation selectivity reflects a dramatic change in the representation of the visual world: Whereas afferent thalamic neurons are generally orientation insensitive, neurons in the primary visual cortex (V1) are extremely sensitive to stimulus orientation. This profound change in the receptive field structure along the visual pathway has positioned V1 as a model system for studying the circuitry that underlies neural computations across the neocortex. The neocortex is characterized anatomically by the relative uniformity of its circuitry despite its role in processing distinct signals from region to region. A combination of physiological, anatomical, and theoretical studies has shed some light on the circuitry components necessary for generating orientation selectivity in V1. This targeted effort has led to critical insights, as well as controversies, concerning how neural circuits in the neocortex perform computations.

Keywords: inhibition; intracellular recording; lateral geniculate nucleus; orientation selectivity; primary visual cortex; spontaneous activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Psychophysics
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*