Authors: David Hubel, Harvard Medical School; Torsten Wiesel, Harvard Medical School
Topic / Subtopic: D. Sensory and Motor Systems / D.04. Vision; H. Teaching, History and Societal Impacts of Neuroscience / H.01. History of Neuroscience
Resource Type: Video Clip
Educational Level: 2 Intermediate undergraduate, 3 Advanced undergraduate
Publication Date: 1965
Listing Updated: January 21, 2013
In the 1960s, David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel made the first systematic recordings from primary visual cortex in cats and monkeys. They succeeded in driving individual cortical neurons by projecting light or dark bars onto a screen in front of the anesthetized animal's eyes. They published their findings as static figures in journals, but in giving talks about their work, Hubel and Wiesel wanted to demonstrate the dynamic nature of the neuronal responses. To accomplish this, they made simple videotape recordings of their experiments using the technology of the time, one-inch reel-to-reel black & white videotape. The technology was so new, however, that it was not generally feasible to play the tapes at other locations. This led them to convert the videotape to black & white 16-mm film, the audiovisual format standard at that time.
To make these historic recordings available online, the 16-mm film was digitized and then converted to QuickTime video. Although the image quality is subpar by modern standards, the historic importance of these experiments makes these videos of enormous interest. The format is simple: the camera shows us the screen on which stimuli were projected, while we hear the action potentials (clicks) generated by a single cortical neuron.
The video shows the responses of lateral geniculate axons and simple and complex cortical cells as Hubel and Wiesel mapped their receptive fields. The video was posted in compressed and high-resolution formats on a Smith College site:
and subsequently re-posted to YouTube: http://youtu.be/KE952yueVLA. The duration is 16:10.
Tags: visual cortex, simple cells, complex cells, receptive field
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