Plasticity in adult cat visual cortex (area 17) following circumscribed monocular lesions of all retinal layers
1. In eight adult cats intense, sharply circumscribed, monocular laser lesions were used to remove all cellular layers of the retina. The extents of the retinal lesions were subsequently confirmed with counts of α-ganglion cells in retinal whole mounts; in some cases these revealed radial segmental degeneration of ganglion cells distal to the lesion.
2. Two to 24 weeks later, area 17 (striate cortex; V1) was studied electrophysiologically in a standard anaesthetized, paralysed (artificially respired) preparation. Recording singleor multineurone activity revealed extensive topographical reorganization within the lesion projection zone (LPZ).
3. Thus, with stimulation of the lesioned eye, about 75% of single neurones in the LPZ had ‘ectopic’ visual discharge fields which were displaced to normal retina in the immediate vicinity of the lesion.
4. The sizes of the ectopic discharge fields were not significantly different from the sizes of the normal discharge fields. Furthermore, binocular cells recorded from the LPZ, when stimulated via their ectopic receptive fields, exhibited orientation tuning and preferred stimulus velocities which were indistinguishable from those found when the cells were stimulated via the normal eye.
5. However, the responses to stimuli presented via ectopic discharge fields were generally weaker (lower peak discharge rates) than those to presentations via normal discharge fields, and were characterized by a lowerthannormal upper velocity limit.
6. Overall, the properties of the ectopic receptive fields indicate that cortical mechanisms rather than a retinal ‘periphery’ effect underlie the topographic reorganization of area 17 following monocular retinal lesions.