Laminar Development of Receptive Fields, Maps and Columns in Visual Cortex: The Coordinating Role of the Subplate

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How is development of cortical maps in V1 coordinated across cortical layers to form cortical columns? Previous neural models propose how maps of orientation (OR), ocular dominance (OD), and related properties develop in V1. These models show how spontaneous activity, before eye opening, combined with correlation learning and competition, can generate maps similar to those found in vivo. These models have not discussed laminar architecture or how cells develop and coordinate their connections across cortical layers. This is an important problem since anatomical evidence shows that clusters of horizontal connections form, between iso-oriented regions, in layer 2/3 before being innervated by layer 4 afferents. How are orientations in different layers aligned before these connections form? Anatomical evidence demonstrates that thalamic afferents wait in the subplate for weeks before innervating layer 4. Other evidence shows that ablation of the cortical subplate interferes with the development of OR and OD columns. The model proposes how the subplate develops OR and OD maps, which then entrain and coordinate the development of maps in other lamina. The model demonstrates how these maps may develop in layer 4 by using a known transient subplate-to-layer 4 circuit as a teacher. The model subplate also guides the early clustering of horizontal connections in layer 2/3, and the formation of the interlaminar circuitry that forms cortical columns. It is shown how layer 6 develops and helps to stabilize the network when the subplate atrophies. Finally the model clarifies how brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) manipulations may influence cortical development.

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