Study of parallel processing in the visual pathway1 of the cat has revealed several classes of retinal ganglion cells which are physiologically distinct and which project to various locations in the brain2,3. Two classes have been studied most extensively: X cells, which sum neural signals linearly over their receptive fields, and Y cells, in which the spatial summation is nonlinear1,4. In the cat's lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) cells also can be classified as X or Y, a result of the parallel projection of retinal X and Y inputs to different geniculate neurones 5-9. We report here our study of parallel signal processing in the LGN of the macaque monkey. We find that (1) monkey LGN cells can be classified as X or Y on the basis of spatial summation; (2) X-like cells are found in the four parvocellular and the two magnocellular laminae, whereas Y-like cells are found almost exclusively in the magnocellular laminae; and (3) the cells of the magnocellular laminae have high sensitivity and the parvocellular cells low sensitivity for homochromatic patterns. This implies that in macaque monkeys the magnocellular cells and their cortical projections may be the neural vehicle for contrast vision near threshold. The cells of the parvocellular laminae seem to be primarily concerned with wavelength discrimination and patterns of colour. As the human visual system is similar to that of the macaque in structure and behavioural performance, our findings are probably also applicable to man.
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