Maps of sensory surfaces are a fundamental feature of sensory cortical areas of the brain. The relative roles of afferents and targets in forming neocortical maps in higher mammals can be examined in ferrets in which retinal inputs are directed into the auditory pathway. In these animals, the primary auditory cortex contains a systematic representation of the retina (and of visual space) rather than a representation of the cochlea (and of sound frequency). A representation of a two-dimensional sensory epithelium, the retina, in cortex that normally represents a one-dimensional epithelium, the cochlea, suggests that the same cortical area can support different types of maps. Topography in the visual map arises both from thalamocortical projections that are characteristic of the auditory pathway and from patterns of retinal activity that provide the input to the map.
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