X- And Y-Mediated Current Sources In Areas 17 And 18 of Cat Visual Cortex

David Ferster*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


X- and Y-mediated input to areas 17 and 18 of the cat visual cortex was studied using current-source-density analysis of field potentials evoked by stimulation of the optic nerves. A cuff-shaped electrode was used for stimulation so that Y axons, by virtue of their larger diameters, would have lower electrical thresholds than X axons. The effect in each cortical area of activating Y axons alone could therefore be determined by low-amplitude stimulation of the optic nerves. Current-source densities were calculated by two separate methods. (1) In five experiments, field potentials were measured sequentially at different cortical depths with a single tungsten electrode. Current densities were then calculated by computer. (2) In two experiments, current densities were derived in real time from field potentials recorded simultaneously from three sites with a multi-electrode probe. The calculation was performed by an analog circuit specially designed for this purpose. This method has several advantages over the standard, single-electrode method. At stimulus strengths sufficient to activate the majority of Y axons in the optic nerves, but subthreshold to most X axons, the field potentials evoked in area 17 changed little from layer to layer. When the current-source-density analysis was applied to these potentials, no significant sources or sinks were detectable. Only when the stimulus strength was raised to the point that both X and Y axons were activated by the stimulus were any current sources or sinks detected in area 17. The currents were similar in time course and laminar pattern to those recorded after stimulation of the optic chiasm. In area 18, large sources and sinks were evoked by stimulation of Y axons alone. These currents changed little when the stimulus strength was increased to activate X axons as well. Area 18, therefore, in contrast to area 17, seems to be dominated by Y input and receives little X input. These results support the conclusions of the accompanying paper in which synaptic potentials were recorded intracellularly from cortical neutrons. The intracellular experiments failed to show substantial Y input to area 17. The projections of X and Y axons may therefore be much more highly segregated into areas 17 and 18 than previously thought. Alternatively, the nature of the Y input to area 17 may be very different from that to area 18 in that it cannot be easily detected with intracellular or current-source-density techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-145
Number of pages11
JournalVisual Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1990


  • Current-source-density analysis
  • Visual cortex X cells Y cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Sensory Systems


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