Traveling waves of cortical activity, in which local stimulation triggers lateral spread of activity to distal locations, have been hypothesized to play an important role in cortical function. However, there is conflicting physiological evidence for the existence of spreading traveling waves of neural activity triggered locally. Dichoptic stimulation, in which the two eyes view dissimilar monocular patterns, can lead to dynamic wave-like fluctuations in visual perception and therefore, provides a promising means for identifying and studying cortical traveling waves. Here, we used voltage-sensitive dye imaging to test for the existence of traveling waves of activity in the primary visual cortex of awake, fixating monkeys viewing dichoptic stimuli. We find clear traveling waves that are initiated by brief, localized contrast increments in one of the monocular patterns and then, propagate at speeds of ∼ 30 mm/s. These results demonstrate that under an appropriate visual context, circuitry in visual cortex in alert animals is capable of supporting long-range traveling waves triggered by local stimulation.
Copyright © 2015 the American Physiological Society.