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Critical Reviews™ in Biomedical Engineering
SJR: 0.207 SNIP: 0.376 CiteScore™: 0.79

ISSN Imprimer: 0278-940X
ISSN En ligne: 1943-619X

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Critical Reviews™ in Biomedical Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevBiomedEng.2017020607
pages 347-355

The Migraine Aura: A Problem for Vision Theory?

Alan J. McComas
Division of Neurology, McMaster University Medical Centre, Room 4U6, 1200 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8N 3Z5
Adrian R. M. Upton
Department of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, L8N3Z5, Canada


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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