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Functions of the colour-opponent and broad-band channels of the visual system


THE colour-opponent and broad-band channels of the primate visual system originate in the retina and remain segregated through several neural stations in the visual system1–7. Until now inferences about their function in vision have been based primarily on studies examining single-cell receptive field properties which have shown that the colour-opponent retinal ganglion cells have small receptive fields, produce sustained responses and receive spatially segregated inputs from different cone types; the broad-band cells have large receptive fields, respond transiently and receive cone inputs that are not spatially separated8–11. We have now examined the visual capacities of rhesus monkeys before and after interrupting either of these channels with small lesions at the lateral geniculate nucleus. Here we report that the colour-opponent channel is essential for the processing of colour, texture, fine pattern and fine stereopsis, whereas the broad-band channel is crucial for the perception of fast flicker and motion. Little or no deficits were found in brightness and coarse-shape discrimination, low spatial frequency stereopsis and contrast sensitivity after the disruption of either of the channels.

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Schiller, P., Logothetis, N. & Charles, E. Functions of the colour-opponent and broad-band channels of the visual system. Nature 343, 68–70 (1990).

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