The effects of acute alcohol exposure on the response properties of neurons in visual cortex area 17 of cats

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Physiological and behavioral studies have demonstrated that a number of visual functions such as visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and motion perception can be impaired by acute alcohol exposure. The orientation- and direction-selective responses of cells in primary visual cortex are thought to participate in the perception of form and motion. To investigate how orientation selectivity and direction selectivity of neurons are influenced by acute alcohol exposure in vivo, we used the extracellular single-unit recording technique to examine the response properties of neurons in primary visual cortex (A17) of adult cats. We found that alcohol reduces spontaneous activity, visual evoked unit responses, the signal-to-noise ratio, and orientation selectivity of A17 cells. In addition, small but detectable changes in both the preferred orientation/direction and the bandwidth of the orientation tuning curve of strongly orientation-biased A17 cells were observed after acute alcohol administration. Our findings may provide physiological evidence for some alcohol-related deficits in visual function observed in behavioral studies.

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