Previous studies of cat visual cortex have shown that the spatiotemporal (S-T) structure of simple cell receptive fields correlates with direction selectivity. However, great heterogeneity exists in the relationship and this has implications for models. Here we report a laminar basis for some of the heterogeneity. S-T structure and direction selectivity were measured in 101 cells using stationary counterphasing and drifting gratings, respectively. Two procedures were used to assess S-T structure and its relation to direction selectivity. In the first, the S-T orientations of receptive fields were quantified by fitting response temporal phase versus stimulus spatial phase data. In the second procedure, conventional linear predictions of direction selectivity were computed from the amplitudes and phases of responses to stationary gratings. Extracellular recording locations were reconstructed histologically. Among direction-selective cells, S-T orientation was greatest in layer 4B and it correlated well (r = 0.76) with direction selectivity. In layer 6, S-T orientation was uniformly low, overlapping little with layer 4B, and it was not correlated with directional tuning. Layer 4A was intermediate in S-T orientation and its relation (r = 0.46) to direction selectivity. The same laminar patterns were observed using conventional linear predictions. The patterns do not reflect laminar differences in direction selectivity since the layers were equivalent in directional tuning. We also evaluated a model of linear spatiotemporal summation followed by a static nonlinear amplification (exponent model) to account for direction selectivity. The values of the exponents were estimated from differences between linearly predicted and actual amplitude modulations to counterphasing gratings. Comparing these exponents with another exponent—that required to obtain perfect matches between linearly predicted and measured directional tuning—indicates that an exponent model largely accounts for direction selectivity in most cells in layer 4, particularly layer 4B, but not in layer 6. Dynamic nonlinearities seem essential for cells in layer 6. We suggest that these laminar differences may partly reflect the differential involvement of geniculocortical and intracortical mechanisms.
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