Signals relayed through the magnocellular layers of the LGN travel on axons with faster conduction speeds than those relayed through the parvocellular layers. As a result, magnocellular signals might reach cerebral cortex appreciably before parvocellular signals. The relative speed of these two channels cannot be accurately predicted based solely on axon conduction speeds, however. Other factors, such as different degrees of convergence in the magnocellular and parvocellular channels and the retinal circuits that feed them, can affect the time it takes for magnocellular and parvocellular signals to activate cortical neurons. We have investigated the relative timing of visual responses mediated by the magnocellular and parvocellular channels. We recorded individually from 78 magnocellular and 80 parvocellular neurons in the LGN of two anesthetized monkeys. Visual response latencies were measured for small spots of light of various intensities. Over a wide range of stimulus intensities the fastest magnocellular response latencies preceded the fastest parvocellular response latencies by about 10 ms. Because parvocellular neurons are far more numerous than magnocellular neurons, convergence in cortex could reduce the magnocellular advantage by allowing parvocellular signals to generate detectable responses sooner than expected based on the responses of individual parvocellular neurons. An analysis based on a simple model using neurophysiological data collected from the LGN shows that convergence in cortex could eliminate or reverse the magnocellular advantage. This observation calls into question inferences that have been made about ordinal relationships of neurons based on timing of responses.
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