The formation of topographic maps requires not only that afferents synapse with the appropriate targets, but that the spatial relationships between the afferents be maintained. During development, in addition to the formation of the topographic map, the connectivity patterns responsible for the receptive-field properties of the target cells are being formed. The extent of interaction between these two processes is unknown. The present study addresses this question by manipulating afferent/target ratios during development, thus altering the topography of the map, and studying the effects of this alteration on the receptive-field properties of single target cells in the adult.
Partial unilateral lesions of the superior colliculus (SC) were made in neonatal hamsters. These lesions result in a compression of the retinotopic map onto the remaining collicular fragment. Single cells were recorded from the superficial gray layer of the SC in the adult in response to visual stimuli. Receptive-field properties observed in lesioned animals were compared to those in normal animals and in sham operates.
Receptive-field properties were largely unaffected by the change in the topographic map. There was no difference in the receptive-field size of single tectal cells of lesioned and unlesioned animals. Stimulus velocity and stimulus size tuning functions remained the same. This raises the possibility that, rather than the expected increase in convergence of retinal ganglion cells (RGC) onto single collicular cells, single SC cells receive input from ganglion cells representing the same amount of retinal area as in unlesioned animals. The excess ganglion cells created by the partial target removal would then project elsewhere and/or reduce their arbor within the SC. Regardless of the mechanism, it is clear from our results that circuitry in the retinotectal system of the hamster can compensate for conditions of increased afferent availability and thus maintain receptive-field properties.