We have examined the effects of rearing kittens with a unilateral convergent strabismus, induced surgically at 3 weeks of age, on the binocularity (ocular dominance) and receptive-field position of neurons in the motion-sensitive lateral suprasylvian (LS) area of cat extrastriate cortex. Data were compared to those obtained from area 17 in the same animals, and from the two areas of cortex in normal adult cats. Interocular alignment of the operated cats was assessed in alert adults using corneal reflex photography and during recording from the positions of retinal landmarks under paralysis. The strabismus magnitude in each operated cat was calculated by comparison with equivalent data from the normal animals.
Strabismus always caused a major loss of binocularity in area 17. The remaining binocular neurons had receptive-field (RF) pairs arising from positions of normal correspondence in the two retinae and would thus have been responsive to different regions of visual space through the misaligned eyes in the alert animal. In area LS, the effects were dependent on the strabismus magnitude. In the group of four cats with pronounced strabismus (18–30 deg crossed), a loss of binocularity occurred in area LS equivalent in severity to that in area 17. The majority of the remaining binocular LS neurons possessed RF pairs in normal retinal correspondence and would thus, in the alert animal, have received spatially disparate visual input through the two eyes. This also occurred in three other cats with more moderate strabismus (11–15 deg crossed), although only a small breakdown in the binocularity of area LS was apparent. The group of cats with mild strabismus (≤10 deg crossed) had normal proportions of binocular neurons in area LS. In three of these cats, the maintenance of binocularity was accompanied by shifts in RF position, with visual inputs arising from anomalous retinal locations. These shifts compensated, in part, for the strabismus angle present in each cat, so that most of the binocular LS neurons would have received inputs from regions of visual correspondence through the misaligned eyes when the animal was alert.
Similar mechanisms could afford a basis for the binocular visual compensations that occur in humans with small-angle strabismus of early onset. If so, anomalous retinal correspondence in such individuals would have as a locus areas of extrastriate cortex with a role in motion perception, and would involve alterations to the neural substrate underlying normal binocular vision.