The primary visual cortex contains a detailed map of retinal stimulus position (retinotopic map) and eye input (ocular dominance map) that results from the precise arrangement of thalamic afferents during cortical development. For reasons that remain unclear, the patterns of ocular dominance are very diverse across species and can take the shape of highly organized stripes, convoluted beads, or no pattern at all. Here, we use a new image-processing algorithm to measure ocular dominance patterns more accurately than in the past. We use these measurements to demonstrate that ocular dominance maps follow a common organizing principle that makes the cortical axis with the slowest retinotopic gradient orthogonal to the ocular dominance stripes. We demonstrate this relation in multiple regions of the primary visual cortex from individual animals, and different species. Moreover, consistent with the increase in the retinotopic gradient with visual eccentricity, we demonstrate a strong correlation between eccentricity and ocular dominance stripe width. We also show that an eye/polarity grid emerges within the visual cortical map when the representation of light and dark stimuli segregates along an axis orthogonal to the ocular dominance stripes, as recently demonstrated in cats. Based on these results, we propose a developmental model of visual cortical topography that sorts thalamic afferents by eye input and stimulus polarity, and then maximizes the binocular retinotopic match needed for depth perception and the light-dark retinotopic mismatch needed to process stimulus orientation. In this model, the different ocular dominance patterns simply emerge from differences in local retinotopic cortical topography.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Thalamocortical afferents segregate in primary visual cortex by eye input and light-dark polarity. This afferent segregation forms cortical patterns that vary greatly across species for reasons that remain unknown. Here we show that the formation of ocular dominance patterns follows a common organizing principle across species that aligns the cortical axis of ocular dominance segregation with the axis of slowest retinotopic gradient. Based on our results, we propose a model of visual cortical topography that sorts thalamic afferents by eye input and stimulus polarity along orthogonal axes with the slowest and fastest retinotopic gradients, respectively. This organization maximizes the binocular retinotopic match needed for depth perception and the light-dark retinotopic mismatch needed to process stimulus orientation in carnivores and primates.
Keywords: ocular dominance; plasticity; receptive field; thalamocortical; thalamus; visual cortex.
Copyright © 2019 the authors.