Visually evoked signals in the retina pass through the dorsal geniculate nucleus (dLGN) on the way to the visual cortex. This is however not a simple feedforward flow of information: there is a significant feedback from cortical cells back to both relay cells and interneurons in the dLGN. Despite four decades of experimental and theoretical studies, the functional role of this feedback is still debated. Here we use a firing-rate model, the extended difference-of-Gaussians (eDOG) model, to explore cortical feedback effects on visual responses of dLGN relay cells. For this model the responses are found by direct evaluation of two- or three-dimensional integrals allowing for fast and comprehensive studies of putative effects of different candidate organizations of the cortical feedback. Our analysis identifies a special mixed configuration of excitatory and inhibitory cortical feedback which seems to best account for available experimental data. This configuration consists of (i) a slow (long-delay) and spatially widespread inhibitory feedback, combined with (ii) a fast (short-delayed) and spatially narrow excitatory feedback, where (iii) the excitatory/inhibitory ON-ON connections are accompanied respectively by inhibitory/excitatory OFF-ON connections, i.e. following a phase-reversed arrangement. The recent development of optogenetic and pharmacogenetic methods has provided new tools for more precise manipulation and investigation of the thalamocortical circuit, in particular for mice. Such data will expectedly allow the eDOG model to be better constrained by data from specific animal model systems than has been possible until now for cat. We have therefore made the Python tool pyLGN which allows for easy adaptation of the eDOG model to new situations.
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