Orientation preference maps (OPMs) are a prominent feature of primary visual cortex (V1) organization in many primates and carnivores. In rodents, neurons are not organized in OPMs but are instead interspersed in a “salt and pepper” fashion, although clusters of orientation-selective neurons have been reported. Does this fundamental difference reflect the existence of a lower size limit for orientation columns (OCs) below which they cannot be scaled down with decreasing V1 size? To address this question, we examined V1 of one of the smallest living primates, the 60-g prosimian mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus). Using chronic intrinsic signal imaging, we found that mouse lemur V1 contains robust OCs, which are arranged in a pinwheel-like fashion. OC size in mouse lemurs was found to be only marginally smaller compared to the macaque, suggesting that these circuit elements are nearly incompressible. The spatial arrangement of pinwheels is well described by a common mathematical design of primate V1 circuit organization. In order to accommodate OPMs, we found that the mouse lemur V1 covers one-fifth of the cortical surface, which is one of the largest V1-to-cortex ratios found in primates. These results indicate that the primate-type visual cortical circuit organization is constrained by a size limitation and raises the possibility that its emergence might have evolved by disruptive innovation rather than gradual change. Orientation preference maps are a hallmark of V1 organization in all primates studied thus far, yet they are absent in rodents. It is uncertain whether these structures scale with body or brain size. Using intrinsic signal imaging, Ho et al. reveal the presence of such maps in the V1 of the world's smallest primate, the mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus).
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