Home Publications Reorganization of columnar architecture in the growing visual cortex
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Wolfgang Keil, Karl-Friedrich Schmidt, Siegrid Löwel, and Matthias Kaschube (2010)

Reorganization of columnar architecture in the growing visual cortex

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(27):12293-12298.  (export entry)

Bernstein Fellows
Many cortical areas increase in size considerably during postnatal development, progressively displacing neuronal cell bodies from each other. At present, little is known about how cortical growth affects the development of neuronal circuits. Here, in acute and chronic experiments, we study the layout of ocular dominance (OD) columns in cat primary visual cortex during a period of substantial postnatal growth. We find that despite a considerable size increase of primary visual cortext, the spacing between columns is largely preserved. In contrast, their spatial arrangement changes systematically over this period. Whereas in young animals columns are more band-like, layouts become more isotropic in mature animals. We propose a novel mechanism of growth-induced reorganization that is based on the “zigzag instability,” a dynamical instability observed in several inanimate pattern forming systems. We argue that this mechanism is inherent to a wide class of models for the activity-dependent formation of OD columns. Analyzing one representative of this class, the Elastic Network model, we show that this mechanism can account for the preservation of column spacing and the specific mode of reorganization of OD columns that we observe. We conclude that column width is preserved by systematic reorganization of neuronal selectivities during cortical expansion and that this reorganization is well described by the zigzag instability. Our work suggests that cortical circuits may remain plastic for an extended period in development to facilitate the modification of neuronal circuits to adjust for cortical growth.