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Publication Summary and Abstract

Bednar, J. A. and Wilson, S. P. (2016), Cortical Maps, The Neuroscientist, 22(6):604-617.

In this article, we review functional organization in sensory cortical regions—how the cortex represents the world. We consider four interrelated aspects of cortical organization: (1) the set of receptive fields of individual cortical sensory neurons, (2) how lateral interaction between cortical neurons reflects the similarity of their receptive fields, (3) the spatial distribution of receptive-field properties across the horizontal extent of the cortical tissue, and (4) how the spatial distributions of different receptive-field properties interact with one another. We show how these data are generally well explained by the theory of input-driven self-organization, with a family of computational models of cortical maps offering a parsimonious account for a wide range of map-related phenomena. We then discuss important challenges to this explanation, with respect to the maps present at birth, maps present under activity blockade, the limits of adult plasticity, and the lack of some maps in rodents. Because there is not at present another credible general theory for cortical map development, we conclude by proposing key experiments to help uncover other mechanisms that might also be operating during map development.
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