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Visual cortex maps are optimized for uniform coverage


Cat visual cortex contains a topographic map of visual space, plus superimposed, spatially periodic maps of ocular dominance, spatial frequency and orientation. It is hypothesized that the layout of these maps is determined by two constraints: continuity or smooth mapping of stimulus properties across the cortical surface, and coverage uniformity or uniform representation of combinations of map features over visual space. Here we use a quantitative measure of coverage uniformity (c′) to test the hypothesis that cortical maps are optimized for coverage. When we perturbed the spatial relationships between ocular dominance, spatial frequency and orientation maps obtained in single regions of cortex, we found that cortical maps are at a local minimum for c′. This suggests that coverage optimization is an important organizing principle governing cortical map development.

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Figure 1: Experimental data from three of the cats on which calculations were based.
Figure 2: Effects of various reflections and rotations of one or more maps, relative to each other, on coverage uniformity.
Figure 3: Effect of displacing one of the maps sideways relative to the other two by a fixed amount (offsets are multiples of one pixel, 0.036 mm).


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This work was supported by grants from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Medical Research Council of Canada to N.V.S. Additional support came from the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft and the EC Biotech Program (M.H. and T.B.) and from the Wolfson Foundation and German-Israeli Research Foundation to A.G.

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Correspondence to Nicholas V. Swindale.

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Swindale, N., Shoham, D., Grinvald, A. et al. Visual cortex maps are optimized for uniform coverage. Nat Neurosci 3, 822–826 (2000).

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