Multiple adjacent, roughly mirror-image topographic maps are commonly observed in the sensory neocortex of many species. The cortical regions occupied by these maps are generally believed to be determined initially by genetically controlled chemical markers during development, with thalamocortical afferent activity subsequently exerting a progressively increasing influence over time. Here we use a computational model to show that adjacent topographic maps with mirror-image symmetry can arise from activity-dependent synaptic changes whenever the distribution radius of afferents sufficiently exceeds that of horizontal intracortical interactions. Which map edges become adjacent is strongly influenced by the probability distribution of input stimuli during map formation. Our results suggest that activity-dependent synaptic changes may play a role in influencing how adjacent maps become oriented following the initial establishment of cortical areas via genetically determined chemical markers. Further, the model unexpectedly predicts the occasional occurrence of adjacent maps with a different rotational symmetry. We speculate that such atypically oriented maps, in the context of otherwise normally interconnected cortical regions, might contribute to abnormal cortical information processing in some neuro developmental disorders.

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