Cell structure and function in the visual cortex of the cat

J. P. Kelly, D. C. Van Essen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations


1. The organization of the visual cortex was studied with a technique that allows one to determine the physiology and morphology of individual cells. Micro‐electrodes filled with the fluorescent dye Procion yellow were used to record intracellularly from cells in area 17 of the cat. The visual receptive field of each neurone was classified as simple, complex, or hypercomplex, and the cell was then stained by the iontophoretic injection of dye. 2. Fifty neurones were successfully examined in this way, and their structural features were compared to the varieties of cell types seen in Golgi preparations of area 17. The majority of simple units were stellate cells, whereas the majority of complex and hypercomplex units were pyramidal cells. Several neurones belonged to less common morphological types, such as double bouquet cells. Simple cells were concentrated in layer IV, hypercomplex cells in layer II + III, and complex cells in layers II + III, V and VI. 3. Electrically inexcitable cells that had high resting potentials but no impulse activity were stained and identified as glial cells. Glial cells responded to visual stimuli with slow graded depolarizations, and many of them showed a preference for a stimulus orientation similar to the optimal orientation for adjacent neurones. 4. The results show that there is a clear, but not absolute correlation between the major structural and functional classes of cells in the visual cortex. This approach, linking the physiological properties of a single cell to a given morphological type, will help in furthering our understanding of the cerebral cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-547
Number of pages33
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 1974


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