Development of binocular vision in the kitten's striate cortex.

Citation Info

Ralph D. Freeman, and Izumi Ohzawa (1992)
Development of binocular vision in the kitten's striate cortex.
J. Neurosci. 12: 4721-4736.
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Studies of the development and plasticity of the visual pathway are well documented, but a basic question remains open: what is the physiological status of the system prior to extensive visual experience? Somewhat conflicting answers have been put forward, and in a major area, binocular vision, reports have ranged from severe immaturity to well-developed maturity. This is an important question to resolve since binocular cells in the visual cortex are thought to be the neural substrate for stereoscopic depth perception. We have addressed this question by recording from single cells in the striate cortex of kittens at postnatal ages 2, 3, and 4 weeks and from adults for comparison. Gratings with sinusoidal luminance distribution are presented to left, right, or both eyes. For each cell, we determine optimal values for orientation and spatial frequency. Relative phase (retinal disparity) is then varied in a dichoptic sequence so that binocular interaction may be studied. Results are as follows. In the normal adult, we have shown in previous work that most binocular interaction in the visual cortex can be accounted for on the basis of linear summation. Results from 3 and 4 week postnatal kittens are closely similar to those from adults. All types of binocular interaction found in adults are present in kittens. This includes phase-specific and non-phase-specific suppression or facilitation. Furthermore, monocular and binocular tuning characteristics are comparable in kittens and adults. The clear changes that occur with age are optimal spatial frequencies and peak responses. In addition, at 2 weeks, there is a substantially higher proportion of monocular cells compared to other ages and correspondingly, lower relative numbers of cells that exhibit phase-specific or suppressive binocular interactions. From increases in optimal spatial frequency and interpupillary distance with age, we calculated predicted changes in binocular disparity thresholds (stereo acuity) with age. Although there are methodological limits with respect to the behavioral testing of young kittens, the predicted results are comparable to some of the values obtained. Considered together, our results show that the physiological apparatus for binocular vision is functional at an early stage in postnatal development. It is possible that the connections that underlie this function are developed rapidly during early postnatal experience. An alternative possibility is that there is an elaborate genetic organization of binocular vision, but our study does not address this issue directly. A combination of these factors may be applicable.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)