Jérôme Ribot, Alberto Romagnoni, Chantal Milleret, Daniel Bennequin, Jonathan D. Touboul
In the early visual cortex, information is processed within functional maps whose layout is thought to underlie visual perception. However, the precise organization of these functional maps as well as their interrelationships remains unresolved. Here, we show that spatial frequency representation in cat areas 17 and 18 exhibits singularities around which the map organizes like an electric dipole potential. These singularities are precisely co-located with singularities of the orientation map: the pinwheel centers. We first show, using high resolution optical imaging, that a large majority (around 80%) of pinwheel centers exhibit in their neighborhood semi-global extrema in the spatial frequency map. These extrema created a sharp gradient that was confirmed with electrophysiological recordings. Based on an analogy with electromagnetism, a mathematical model of a dipolar structure is proposed, that was accurately fitted to optical imaging data for two third of pinwheel centers with semi-global extrema. We conclude that more than half of orientation pinwheel centers form spatial frequency dipoles in cat early visual cortex. Given the functional specificities of neurons at singularities in the visual cortex, it is argued that the dipolar organization of spatial frequency around pinwheel centers could be fundamental for visual processing.