The representation of the visual field in parvicellular and magnocellular layers of the lateral geniculate nucleus in the macaque monkey

Michael Connolly, David Van Essen

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230 Scopus citations


Two‐dimensional maps of individual layers of the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) in the macaque monkey were constructed and used as a basis for comparing laminar size, shape, and topographic organization. Topographical data from the electrophysiological investigation of the LGN by Malpeli and Baker ('75) were displayed on maps of all six layers. As known from previous studies, there is a significant over‐representation of central vision in the LGN. Unexpectedly, though, the visual representation is anisotropic over portions of most LGN layers. That is, the linear magnification factor (millimeters along the laminar surface per degree of visual field) is not equal for all directions from a given point in the visual field. Moreover, the visual representations in the parvicellular and magnocellular divisions of the LGN differ both in their emphasis on central vision and in their anisotropies. To determine the degree of individual variability, laminar maps were prepared from the LGN of seven other hemispheres. The shapes of laminar maps varied considerably between LGNs, from nearly circular to highly elliptical, but the surface area was relatively constant for each layer. Topographical organization, determined by mapping the optic disc representation on the LGN laminae and by labeling from anterograde and retrograde tracer injections in striate cortex, showed significant individual variability. Interestingly, the visual representations in the LGN and striate cortex are topologically inverted with respect to one another. This indicates that the establishment of geniculocortical connections involves a systematic crossing‐over of fibers. Information on cell densities and magnification factors in striate cortex obtained from other studies was compared to the results of the present study in order to estimate ratios of cortical neurons to LGN neurons at different eccentricities. The total number of cortical neurons per LGN neuron is about 130 on average, but it extends over approximately a tenfold range, from less than 100 in the far periphery to nearly 1,000 in the fovea. The estimated number of cells in layers 4A and 4Cβ per parvicellular layer neuron is smaller and extends over a slightly narrower range, from 30 to 240, whereas the number of layer 4Cα neurons per magnocellular neuron varies more widely, from about 45 to 7,000.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-564
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 10 1984


  • laminar organization
  • primate LGN
  • topographic organization


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