We report an analysis of orientation and ocular dominance maps that were recorded optically from area 17 of cats and ferrets. Similar to a recent study performed in primates (Obermayer & Blasdel, 1997), we find that 80% (for cats and ferrets) of orientation singularities that are nearest neighbors have opposite sign and that the spatial distribution of singularities deviates from a random distribution of points, because the average distances between nearest neighbors are significantly larger than expected for a random distribution. Orientation maps of normally raised cats and ferrets show approximately the same typical wavelength; however, the density of singularities is higher in ferrets than in cats. Also, we find the well-known overrepresentation of cardinal versus oblique orientations in young ferrets (Chapman & Bonhoeffer, 1998; Coppola, White, Fitzpatrick, & Purves, 1998) but only a weak, not quite significant overrepresentation of cardinal orientations in cats, as has been reported previously (Bonhoeffer & Grinvald, 1993). Orientation and ocular dominance slabs in cats exhibit a tendency of being orthogonal to each other (Hüubener, Shoham, Grinvald, & Bonhoeffer, 1997), albeit less pronounced, as has been reported for primates (Obermayer & Blasdel, 1993). In chronic recordings from single animals, a decrease of the singularity density and an increase of the ocular dominance wavelength with age but no change of the orientation wavelengths were found.

Orientation maps are compared with two pattern models for orientation preference maps: bandpass-filtered white noise and the field analogy model. Bandpass-filtered white noise predicts sign correlations between orientation singularities, but the correlations are significantly stronger (87% opposite sign pairs) than what we have found in the data. Also, bandpass-filtered noise predicts a deviation of the spatial distribution of singularities from a random dot pattern. The field analogy model can account for the structure of certain local patches but not for the whole orientation map. Differences between the predictions of the field analogy model and experimental data are smaller than what has been reported for primates (Obermayer & Blasdel, 1997), which can be explained by the smaller size of the imaged areas in cats and ferrets.

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