Development of contrast sensitivity and temporal-frequency selectivity in primate lateral geniculate nucleus

M. J. Hawken, C. Blakemore, J. W. Morley

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We studied the development of spatial contrast-sensitivity and temporal-frequency selectivity for neurons in the monkey lateral geniculate nucleus. During postnatal week 1, the spatial properties of P-cells and M-cells are hardly distinguishable, with low contrast-sensitivity, sluggish responses, and poor spatial resolution. The acuity of P-cells improves progressively until at least 8 months, but there is no obvious increase in their maximum contrast-sensitivity with age. The contrast sensitivity of M-cells is already clearly higher than that of P-cells by 2 months, and at 8 months of age this characteristic difference between M- and P-cells approaches the adult pattern. There is a major increase in responsiveness during the first 2 postnatal months, especially for M-cells, the peak firing rate of which rises fivefold, on average, between birth and 2 months. Many P-cells in the neonatal and 2-month-old animals did not give statistically reliable responses to achromatic gratings, even at the highest contrasts: this unresponsiveness of P-cells might result from low gain and/or chromatic opponency. The upper limit of temporal resolution in the neonate is low - about one-third of that in the adult. Among M-cells, the improvement in temporal resolution, like that in contrast sensitivity, is rapid over the first 2 months, followed by a slower change approaching the adult value by 8 months of age. The development of contrast sensitivity, responsiveness and temporal tuning are little affected, if at all, by binocular deprivation of pattern vision from birth for even a prolonged period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-98
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • Contrast-sensitivity
  • Lateral geniculate nucleus
  • Monkey
  • Temporal frequency
  • Visual development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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