Feature-linked synchronization of thalamic relay cell firing induced by feedback from the visual cortex

Nature. 1994 Jun 9;369(6480):479-82. doi: 10.1038/369479a0.


The function of the massive feedback projection from visual cortex to its thalamic relay nucleus has so far eluded any clear overview. This feedback exerts a range of effects, including an increase in the inhibition elicited by moving contours, but the functional logic of the direct connections to the thalamic cells that relay the retinal input to the cortex remains largely unknown. In contrast to its thalamic nucleus, the visual cortex is characterized by cells that are strongly sensitive to the orientation of moving contours. Here we report that when driven by moving oriented visual stimuli the cortical feedback induces correlated firing in relay cells. This cortically induced correlation of relay cell activity produces coherent firing in those groups of relay cells with receptive field alignments appropriate to signalling the particular orientation of the moving contour to the cortex. Synchronization of relay cell firing means that they will elicit temporally overlapping excitatory postsynaptic potentials in their cortical target cells, thus increasing the chance that the cortical cells will fire. Effectively this increases the gain of the input for feature-linked events detected by the cortex. We propose that this feedback loop serves to lock or focus the appropriate circuitry onto the stimulus feature.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Cortical Synchronization*
  • Feedback
  • Geniculate Bodies / cytology
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Thalamus / cytology
  • Thalamus / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / cytology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology