Inhibition in Simple Cell Receptive Fields Is Broad and OFF-Subregion Biased

J Neurosci. 2018 Jan 17;38(3):595-612. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2099-17.2017. Epub 2017 Dec 1.


Inhibition in thalamorecipient layer 4 simple cells of primary visual cortex is believed to play important roles in establishing visual response properties and integrating visual inputs across their receptive fields (RFs). Simple cell RFs are characterized by nonoverlapping, spatially restricted subregions in which visual stimuli can either increase or decrease the firing rate of the cell, depending on contrast. Inhibition is believed to be triggered exclusively from visual stimulation of individual RF subregions. However, this view is at odds with the known anatomy of layer 4 interneurons in visual cortex and differs from recent findings in mouse visual cortex. Here we show with in vivo intracellular recordings in cats that while excitation is restricted to RF subregions, inhibition spans the width of simple cell RFs. Consequently, excitatory stimuli within a subregion concomitantly drive excitation and inhibition. Furthermore, we found that the distribution of inhibition across the RF is stronger toward OFF subregions. This inhibitory OFF-subregion bias has a functional consequence on spatial integration of inputs across the RF. A model based on the known anatomy of layer 4 demonstrates that the known proportion and connectivity of inhibitory neurons in layer 4 of primary visual cortex is sufficient to explain broad inhibition with an OFF-subregion bias while generating a variety of phase relations, including antiphase, between excitation and inhibition in response to drifting gratings.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The wiring of excitatory and inhibitory neurons in cortical circuits is key to determining the response properties in sensory cortex. In the visual cortex, the first cells that receive visual input are simple cells in layer 4. The underlying circuitry responsible for the response properties of simple cells is not yet known. In this study, we challenge a long-held view concerning the pattern of inhibitory input and provide results that agree with current known anatomy. We show here that inhibition is evoked broadly across the receptive fields of simple cells, and we identify a surprising bias in inhibition within the receptive field. Our findings represent a step toward a unified view of inhibition across different species and sensory systems.

Keywords: conductances; inhibitory interneuron; input integration; intracellular recordings; primary visual cortex; push–pull.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Interneurons / cytology*
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / cytology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*