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Parallel colour-opponent pathways to primary visual cortex


The trichromatic primate retina parses the colour content of a visual scene into ‘red/green’ and ‘blue/yellow’ representations1,2. Cortical circuits must combine the information encoded in these colour-opponent signals to reconstruct the full range of perceived colours3. Red/green and blue/yellow inputs are relayed by the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of thalamus to primary visual cortex (V1), so understanding how cortical circuits transform these signals requires understanding how LGN inputs to V1 are organized. Here we report direct recordings from LGN afferent axons in muscimol-inactivated V1. We found that blue/yellow afferents terminated exclusively in superficial cortical layers 3B and 4A, whereas red/green afferents were encountered only in deeper cortex, in lower layer 4C. We also describe a distinct cortical target for ‘blue-OFF’ cells, whose afferents terminated in layer 4A and seemed patchy in organization. The more common ‘blue-ON’ afferents were found in 4A as well as lower layer 2/3. Chromatic information is thus conveyed to V1 by parallel, anatomically segregated colour-opponent systems, to be combined at a later stage of the colour circuit.

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Figure 1: LGN afferents recorded in muscimol-inactivated V1 were classified into four distinct groups on the basis of cone contributions.
Figure 2: Reconstructions of tangential electrode penetrations in muscimol-inactivated V1.
Figure 3: Laminar organization of colour-opponent afferents.


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We thank D. Ringach for providing software used for visual stimulation, spike sorting, and some data analysis; E. J. Chichilnisky for help with stimulus calibration and design; and E. J. Chichilnisky and G. Horwitz for a critical reading of the manuscript. We also thank S. Tye for surgical assistance.

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Correspondence to Soumya Chatterjee.

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Chatterjee, S., Callaway, E. Parallel colour-opponent pathways to primary visual cortex. Nature 426, 668–671 (2003).

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