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Cortical magnification factor and the ganglion cell density of the primate retina

Abstract

IT has long been contentious whether the large representation of the fovea in the primate visual cortex (VI)1–8 indicates a selective magnification of this part of the retina7, 9–11, or whether it merely reflects the density of retinal ganglion cells12–14. The measurement of the retinal ganglion-cell density is complicated by lateral displacements of cells around the fovea and the presence of displaced amacrine cells in the ganglion cell layer. We have now identified displaced amacrine cells by GABA immunohistochemistry and by retrograde degeneration of ganglion cells. By reconstructing the fovea from serial sections, we were able to compare the densities of cones, cone pedicles and ganglion cells; in this way we found that there are more than three ganglion cells per foveal cone. Between the central and the peripheral retina, the ganglion cell density changes by a factor of 1,000–2,000, which is within the range of estimates of the cortical magnification factor1–8. There is therefore no need to postulate a selective magnification of the fovea in the geniculate and/or the visual cortex.

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Wässle, H., Grünert, U., Röhrenbeck, J. et al. Cortical magnification factor and the ganglion cell density of the primate retina. Nature 341, 643–646 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1038/341643a0

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