Orientation selectivity in primary visual cortex (V1) has been proposed to reflect a canonical computation performed by the neocortical circuitry. Although orientation selectivity has been reported in all mammals examined to date, the degree of selectivity and the functional organization of selectivity vary across mammalian clades. The differences in degree of orientation selectivity are large, from reports in marsupials that only a small subset of neurons are selective to studies in carnivores, in which it is rare to find a neuron lacking selectivity. Furthermore, the functional organization in cortex varies in that the primate and carnivore V1 is characterized by an organization in which nearby neurons share orientation preference while other mammals such as rodents and lagomorphs either lack or have only extremely weak clustering. To gain insight into the evolutionary emergence of orientation selectivity, we examined the nine-banded armadillo, a species within the early placental clade Xenarthra. Here we use a combination of neuroimaging, histological, and electrophysiological methods to identify the retinofugal pathways, locate V1, and for the first time examine the functional properties of V1 neurons in the armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) V1. Individual neurons were strongly sensitive to the orientation and often the direction of drifting gratings. We uncovered a wide range of orientation preferences but found a bias for horizontal gratings. The presence of strong orientation selectivity in armadillos suggests that the circuitry responsible for this computation is common to all placental mammals.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY The current study shows that armadillo primary visual cortex (V1) neurons share the signature properties of V1 neurons of primates, carnivorans, and rodents. Furthermore, these neurons exhibit a degree of selectivity for stimulus orientation and motion direction similar to that found in primate V1. Our findings in armadillo visual cortex suggest that the functional properties of V1 neurons emerged early in the mammalian lineage, near the time of the divergence of marsupials.
- primary visual cortex
- lateral geniculate nucleus
- extracellular recording
- Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society
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