Mexican hats and pinwheels in visual cortex

Many models of cortical function assume that local lateral connections are specific with respect to the preferred features of the interacting cells and that they are organized in a Mexican-hat pattern with strong “center” excitation flanked by strong “surround” inhibition. However, anatomical data on primary visual cortex indicate that the local connections are isotropic and that inhibition has a shorter range than excitation. We address this issue in an analytical study of a neuronal network model of the local cortical circuit in primary visual cortex. In the model, the orientation columns specified by the convergent lateral geniculate nucleus inputs are arranged in a pinwheel architecture, whereas cortical connections are isotropic. We obtain a trade-off between the spatial range of inhibition and its time constant. If inhibition is fast, the network can operate in a Mexican-hat pattern with isotropic connections even with a spatially narrow inhibition. If inhibition is not fast, Mexican-hat operation requires a spatially broad inhibition. The Mexican-hat operation can generate a sharp orientation tuning, which is largely independent of the distance of the cell from the pinwheel center.

Authors: Kukjin Kang; Michael Shelley; Haim Sompolinsky
Year of publication: 2003
Journal: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Mar 4;100(5):2848-53.

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“Working memory”