1. The visual cortex receives several types of afferents from the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of the thalamus. In the cat, previous work studied the ON/OFF and X/Y distinctions, investigating their convergence and segregation in cortex. Here we pursue the lagged/nonlagged dichotomy as it applies to simple cells in area 17. Lagged and nonlagged cells in the A- layers of the LGN can be distinguished by the timing of their responses to sinusoidally luminance-modulated stimuli. We therefore used similar stimuli in cortex to search for signs of lagged and nonlagged inputs to cortical cells. 2. Line-weighting functions were obtained from 37 simple cells. A bar was presented at a series of positions across the receptive field, with the luminance of the bar modulated sinusoidally at a series of temporal frequencies. First harmonic response amplitude and phase values for each position were plotted as a function of temporal frequency. Linear regression on the phase versus temporal frequency data provided estimates of latency (slope) and absolute phase (intercept) for each receptive-field position tested. These two parameters were previously shown to distinguish between lagged and nonlagged LGN cells. Lagged cells generally have latencies >100 ms and absolute phase lags; nonlagged cells have latencies <100 ms and absolute phase leads. With the use of these criteria, we classified responses at discrete positions inside cortical receptive fields as lagged-like and nonlagged-like. 3. Both lagged-like and nonlagged-like responses were observed. The majority of cortical cells had only or nearly only nonlagged- like zones. In 15 of the 37 cells, however, the receptive field consisted of ≥20% lagged-like zones. For eight of these cells, lagged-like responses predominated. 4. The distribution of latency and absolute phase across the sample of cortical simple cell receptive fields resembled the distribution for LGN cells. The resemblance was especially striking when only cells in or adjacent to geniculate recipient layers were considered. Absolute phase lags were almost uniformly associated with long latencies. Absolute phase leads were generally associated with short latencies, although cortical cells responded with long latencies and absolute phase leads slightly more often than LGN cells. 5. Cells in which a high percentage of lagged-like responses were observed had a restricted laminar localization, with all but two being found in layer 4B or 5A. Cells with predominantly nonlagged-like responses were found in all layers. 6. Lagged-like zones can not be easily explained as a result of stimulating combinations of nonlagged inputs. Nonlagged-like responses could not be converted into lagged-like responses by increasing bar width. 7. We conclude that lagged and nonlagged geniculate inputs can be detected in the responses of cells in area 17. The influence of these inputs can be seen in the response timing at certain positions in the receptive field. Lagged afferents appear to innervate layer 4B.
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