2. Spatiotemporal receptive-field profiles have been measured with the use of a reverse correlation method, in which we compute the cross-correlation between a neuron's response and a random sequence of small, briefly presented bright and dark stimuli. The receptive-field profiles of some simple cells are space-time separable, meaning that spatial and temporal response characteristics can be dissociated. Other cells have receptive-field profiles that are space-time inseparable. In these cases, a particular spatial location cannot be designated, unambiguously, as belonging to either an on or off subregion. However, separate on and off subregions may be clearly distinguished in the joint space-time domain. These subregions are generally tilted along an oblique axis.
3. Our observations show that spatial and temporal aspects of receptive-field structure mature with clearly different time courses. By 4 wk postnatal, the spatial symmetry and periodicity of simple-cell receptive fields have reached maturity. The spatial extent (or size) of these receptive fields is adult-like by 8 wk postnatal. In contrast, the response latency and time duration of spatiotemporal receptive fields do not mature until well beyond 8 wk postnatal.
4. By applying Fourier analysis to spatiotemporal receptive-field profiles, we have examined the postnatal development of spatial and temporal selectivity in the frequency domain. By 8 wk postnatal, spatial frequency tuning has clearly reached maturity. On the contrary, temporal frequency selectivity remains markedly immature at 8 wk. We have also examined the joint distribution of optimal spatial and temporal frequencies. From 4 wk postnatal until 8 wk postnatal, the range of optimal spatial frequencies increases substantially, whereas the range of optimal temporal frequencies remains largely unchanged. From 8 wk postnatal until adulthood, there is a large increase in optimal temporal frequencies for cells tuned to low spatial frequencies. For cells tuned to high spatial frequencies, the distribution of optimal temporal frequencies does not change much beyond 8 wk postnatal.
5. By summing the frequency spectra of all simple cells within a particular age group, we have constructed a population frequency response. Predictions of spatial and temporal contrast sensitivity based on the population response agree reasonably well with behavioral measurements of contrast sensitivity.
6. From spatiotemporal receptive-field profiles, we have also obtained estimates of velocity preference and direction selectivity for simple cells. There is little difference in these parameters between populations of simples cells from adult cats and kittens.
7. Overall, our findings show that most simple-cell receptive fields cannot be adequately described by a single spatial sensitivity profile. Valuable insights are gained by examining these receptive fields in the joint domain of space and time.