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Letters to Nature
Nature 379, 725 - 728 (22 February 1996); doi:10.1038/379725a0

A systematic map of direction preference in primary visual cortex

Michael Weliky, William H. Bosking & David Fitzpatrick

Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Box 3209, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA

NEURONS in the primary visual cortex respond selectively to the orientation of edges and their direction of motion. Orientation preference is mapped in a systematic fashion across the cortical surface, such that neurons in adjacent columns have similar but slightly shifted preferred orientations1–7. Microelectrode studies have suggested that direction preference is also arranged in a systematic fashion8–10, but exactly how this response property is mapped remains unclear. Here we show by optical imaging4–5 of intrinsic signals6–7,11–14 in ferret cortical area 17 that there is a mosaic-like map of direction preference. This map consists of numerous regions within which direction preference changes in a slow, continuous fashion. These regions are separated by winding boundaries (fractures) across which direction preference shifts abruptly, often by 180 °. Comparison of direction and orientation preference maps shows that these fractures subdivide iso-orientation domains into regions selective for opposite directions of motion.

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