[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The transformation of spatial (SF) and temporal frequency (TF) tuning functions from broad-band/low-pass to narrow band-pass profiles is one of the key emergent properties of neurons in the mammalian primary visual cortex (V1). The mechanisms underlying such transformation are still a matter of ongoing debate. With the aim of providing comparative insights into the issue, we analyzed various aspects of the spatiotemporal tuning dynamics of neurons in the visual wulst of four awake owls. The wulst is the avian telencephalic target of the retinothalamofugal pathway and, in owls, bears striking functional analogy with V1. Most neurons in our sample exhibited fast and large-magnitude adaptation to the visual stimuli with response latencies very similar to those reported for V1. Moreover, latency increased as a function of stimulus SF but not TF, which suggests that parvo- and magno-like geniculate inputs could be converging onto single wulst neurons. No net shifts in preferred SF or TF were observed along the initial second of stimulation, but bandwidth decreased roughly during the first 200 ms after response latency for both stimulus dimensions. For SF, this occurred exclusively as a consequence of low-frequency suppression, whereas suppression was observed both at the low- and high-frequency limbs of TF tuning curves. Overall these results indicate that SF and TF tuning curves in the wulst are shaped by both feedforward and intratelencephalic suppressive mechanisms, similarly to what seems to be the case in the mammalian striate cortex.
Journal of Neurophysiology 06/2010; 103(6):3424-36. · 3.30 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The avian visual wulst is hodologically equivalent to the mammalian primary visual cortex (V1). In contrast to most birds, owls have a massive visual wulst, which shares striking functional similarities with V1. To provide a better understanding of how motion is processed within this area, we used sinusoidal gratings to characterize the spatiotemporal frequency and speed tuning profiles of 131 neurones recorded from awake burrowing owls. Cells were found to be clearly tuned to both spatial and temporal frequencies, and in a way that is similar to what has been reported in the striate cortex of primates and carnivores. Our results also suggest the presence of spatial frequency tuning domains in the wulst. Speed tuning was assessed by several methods devised to measure the degree of dependence between spatial and temporal frequency tuning. Although many neurones were found to be independently tuned, a significant proportion of cells showed at least some degree of dependence, compatible with the idea that some kind of initial transformation towards an explicit representation of speed is being carried out by the owl wulst. Interestingly, under certain constraints, a higher incidence of spatial frequency-invariant speed tuned profiles was obtained by combining our experimentally measured responses using a recent cortical model of speed tuning. Overall, our findings reinforce the notion that, like V1, the owl wulst is an important initial stage for motion processing, a function that is usually attributed to areas of the tectofugal pathway in lateral-eyed birds.
European Journal of Neuroscience 10/2009; 30(7):1251-68. · 3.75 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The avian retinothalamofugal pathway reaches the telencephalon in an area known as visual wulst. A close functional analogy between this area and the early visual cortex of mammals has been established in owls. The goal of the present study was to assess quantitatively the directional selectivity and motion integration capability of visual wulst neurones, aspects that have not been previously investigated. We recorded extracellularly from a total of 101 cells in awake burrowing owls. From this sample, 88% of the units exhibited modulated directional responses to sinusoidal gratings, with a mean direction index of 0.74 +/- 0.03 and tuning bandwidth of 28 +/- 1.16 degrees . A direction index higher than 0.5 was observed in 66% of the cells, thereby qualifying them as direction selective. Motion integration was tested with moving plaids, made by adding two sinusoidal gratings of different orientations. We found that 80% of direction-selective cells responded optimally to the motion direction of the component gratings, whereas none responded to the global motion of plaids, whose direction was intermediate to that of the gratings. The remaining 20% were unclassifiable. The strength of component motion selectivity rapidly increased over a 200 ms period following stimulus onset, maintaining a relatively sustained profile thereafter. Overall, our data suggest that, as in the mammalian primary visual cortex, the visual wulst neurones of owls signal the local orientated features of a moving object. How and where these potentially ambiguous signals are integrated in the owl brain might be important for understanding the mechanisms underlying global motion perception.
European Journal of Neuroscience 11/2007; 26(7):1950-68. · 3.75 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated age-related changes in learning and memory performance and behavioural extinction in the water maze; and in endogenous levels of serotonin (5-HT) and 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid (5-HIAA) in the neocortex, hippocampus, thalamus and dorsal raphe nucleus of Wistar rats. Another aim was to assess the correlation between behavioural and biochemical parameters, which were measured in rodents of two different ages: 5 months (adults) and 16 months (middle-aged). The middle-aged subjects succeeded in learning the behavioural task, albeit with significantly worse performance when compared to adult animals. Aging also had significant main effects on memory and extinction. An age-dependent decrease in 5-HIAA levels was observed in both hippocampus and dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN). The decrease in DRN 5-HIAA was paralleled by a decrease in 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio in this brain area, which was significantly correlated to the animals' spatial memory performance and behavioural extinction. In addition, using middle-aged rats, a 2x2 factorial study was carried out to examine the effects of food restriction and chronic ethanol consumption on rat's performance in a spatial behavioural task and on central serotonergic parameters. None of these two treatments had a significant effect on the behavioural and biochemical parameters assessed, with the exception of extinction index, which was significantly affected by ethanol consumption. Long-term ethanol ameliorated the impairment in behavioural flexibility caused by aging. In conclusion, long-term ethanol consumption may have a role in protecting against age-related deficit in behavioural extinction. Moreover, the present results also indicate that DRN serotonergic system is involved in spatial memory and behavioural extinction.
Behavioural Brain Research 07/2007; 180(2):226-34. · 3.33 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Chronic ethanol intake causes various types of neural damage and behavioral impairments, probably acting through oxidative stress and excitotoxicity, while dietary restriction is considered by some authors to protect the central nervous system from these kinds of damage. In the present study, a factorial experimental design was used to investigate the effects of chronic ethanol and dietary restriction treatments, associated or not, on Wistar rats' exploratory behavior, spatial memory aspects and cortical and hippocampal acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity. Dietary restriction lasted for the whole experiment, while ethanol treatment lasted for only 3 weeks. Despite the short ethanol treatment duration, for two behavior categories assessed, moving and rearing, an interaction was observed between the effects of chronic ethanol and dietary restriction. There were no significant differences in AChE activities among the groups. Cerebellar neural nitric oxide synthase (nNOs) activity was measured as a first step to assess oxidative stress. Dietary restriction significantly reduced NO formation. The present results indicate that dietary restriction might exert a protective effect against chronic-ethanol-induced changes in exploratory behavior. It is hypothesized that the mechanisms underlying this protection can involve prevention of oxidative stress.
Brain Research 04/2006; 1078(1):171-81. · 2.88 Impact Factor