The Migraine Aura: A Problem for Vision Theory?
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The scintillating zigzag pattern that a migraine patient may see as an illusion before the onset of headache offers a unique investigative approach to visual mechanisms. The likeliest interpretation of these zigzags is that they are the spontaneous discharges of the orientation-selective neurons first described in the striate cortex by Hubel and Wiesel (Hubel DH, Wiesel TN. Receptive fields, binocular interaction and functional architecture in the cat's visual cortex. J Physiol (Lond). 1962 Jan;160:106-54; and Hubel DH, Wiesel TN. Receptive fields and functional architecture of monkey striate cortex. J Physiol (London). 1968 Mar;195(1):215-43). Although these cells appear to lie in rows in V1, as Hubel and Wiesel found, very few angles in the visual field are represented; this, and the coarseness of the representation, makes it unlikely that the cells act as feature detectors. The orientation-selective cells could, however, monitor the amount of light falling on the retina and thereby enable color constancy to be achieved. The cells may also serve as coarse movement detectors. The new model of cell organization in human V1 enables us to determine the approximate sizes of the receptive fields of the orientation-selective cells.
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