The ferret has become a model animal for studies exploring the development of the visual system. However, little is known about the receptive-field structure and response properties of neurons in the adult visual cortex of the ferret. We performed single-unit recordings from neurons in layer 4 of adult ferret primary visual cortex to determine the receptive-field structure and visual-response properties of individual neurons. In particular, we asked what is the spatiotemporal structure of receptive fields of layer 4 neurons and what is the orientation selectivity of layer 4 neurons? Receptive fields of layer 4 neurons were mapped using a white-noise stimulus; orientation selectivity was determined using drifting, sine-wave gratings. Our results show that most neurons (84%) within layer 4 are simple cells with elongated, spatially segregated, ON and OFF subregions. These neurons are also selective for stimulus orientation; peaks in orientation-tuning curves have, on average, a half-width at half-maximum response of 21.5 ± 1.2° (mean ± SD). The remaining neurons in layer 4 (16%) lack orientation selectivity and have center/surround receptive fields. Although the organization of geniculate inputs to layer 4 differs substantially between ferret and cat, our results demonstrate that, like in the cat, most neurons in ferret layer 4 are orientation-selective simple cells.
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