Volume 250, Issue 2 p. 305-329
Research Article
Free to Read

The contribution of inhibitory mechanisms to the receptive field properties of neurones in the striate cortex of the cat.

First published: 01 September 1975
Citations: 531


1. The iontophoretic application of the GABA antagonist bicuculline to simple and complex cells in the striate cortex of the cat produced extensive modifications of receptive field properties. These modifications appear to relate to a block or reduction of GABA-mediated intracortical inhibitory influences acting on the cells examined. 2. For simple cells the effects of bicuculline on receptive field properties involved a loss of the subdivision of the receptive field into antagonistic "on" and "off" regions, a reduction in orientation specificity and a reduction or elimination of directional specificity. 3. The effect on the "on" and "off" subdivisions of the simple cell receptive field was such that all stationary flashing stimuli, whether covering the whole receptive field, or located within the receptive field over a previously determined "on" or "off" region, resulted in an "on and off" response. 4. The orientation specificity of complex cells was reduced during the application of bicuculline such that in many cases the original specificity of the cell was virtually lost with the response to the orientation at 90 degrees to the optimal being of similar magnitude to the optimal. The directional specificity of complex cells was generally less affected than that of simple cells. Often when large changes in orientation specificity were observed the directional specificity was relatively unaffected. 5. For some cells apparently showing to all visual stimuli only inhibitory responses, the application of bicuculline resulted in the appearance of excitatory responses. 6. In all cases receptive field properties reverted to the original state after termination of the bicuculline application. It was not generally possible to duplicate the effects of bicuculline by raising neuronal excitability with iontophoretically applied glutamate. 7. On the basis of these results it is suggested that the normal subdivision of the simple cell receptive field into separate "on" and "off" regions and its directional specificity are dependent on intracortical inhibitory processes that are blocked by bicuculline. The orientational tuning of simple cells conversely appears to be largely determined by the excitatory input but normally enhanced by lateral type inhibitory processes acting in the orientation domain. 8. It also appears that the excitatory input to some complex cells is not orientation specific. This suggests that for these cells it is extremely unlikely that they receive an orientation specific excitatory input from simple cells.