Functional maturation of the macaque's lateral geniculate nucleus

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Vision in infant primates is poor, but it is not known which structures in the eye or brain set the main limits to its development. We studied the visual response properties of 348 neurons recorded in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of macaque monkeys aged 1 week to adult. We measured spatial and temporal frequency tuning curves and contrast responses with drifting achromatic sinusoidal gratings. Even in animals as young as 1 week, the main visual response properties of neurons in the magnocellular (M) and parvocellular (P) divisions of the LGN were qualitatively normal, including the spatial organization of receptive fields and the characteristic response properties that differentiate M- and P-cells. At 1 and 4 weeks, spatial and temporal resolution were less than one-half of adult values, whereas contrast gain and peak response rates for optimal stimuli were about two-thirds of adult values. Adult levels were reached by 24 weeks. Analysis of correlations between S-potentials representing retinal inputs and LGN cells suggested that the LGN follows retinal input as faithfully in infants as in adults, implicating retinal development as the main driving force in LGN development. Comparisons with previously published psychophysical data and ideal observer models suggest that the relatively modest changes in LGN responses during maturation impose no significant limits on visual performance. In contrast to previous studies, we conclude that these limits are set by neural development in the visual cortex, not in or peripheral to the LGN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2712-2722
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 9 2005


  • Development
  • Lateral geniculate nucleus
  • Macaque monkey
  • Spatial
  • Temporal
  • Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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