A possible selective impairment of magnocellular function in compression of the anterior visual pathways

Exp Brain Res. 1999 Aug;127(4):391-401. doi: 10.1007/s002210050807.


Two parallel visual systems, the magnocellular (M) and parvocellular (P) pathways, originate from different types of retinal ganglion cells, and are known to be segregated in different portions of the pregeniculate visual pathways. Their relative contribution to two main cortical streams, dorsal and ventral, is still under discussion, but it is reasonable to suppose that selective damage to the M or P subcortical system might interfere with specific aspects of processing within one or the other cortical system. Using two different apparent-motion tasks, we compared the performance of patients affected by compression of the ventral part of the pregeniculate visual pathways with that of normal controls. In the first task, observers detected small displacements of a low-contrast vertical bar, while in the second task they estimated the visible persistence of moving dots. In the first task, patients were impaired with parafoveal displays, especially in the temporal portion of the visual field. In the second task, patients showed reduced suppression of visible persistence at long, but not at short, exposure durations. Three considerations support the hypothesis that these results represent a selective impairment of the M system. First, M axons are more likely to suffer from compression, particularly in the case of a mass growing from below since they are known to occupy a ventral subpial position in the optic chiasm and tract. Second, the performance of patients with a ventral compression is consistent with the characteristics of the response properties of P ganglion cells, which have previously been shown to exhibit elevated and unmodulated thresholds for displacement detection in the macaque monkey. Third, such patients are less sensitive to the inhibitory signals that suppress visible persistence, which probably originate in the M system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / physiopathology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain Mapping
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Female
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology*
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Aneurysm / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Substantia Innominata / physiology*
  • Substantia Innominata / physiopathology
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / physiology
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / physiopathology
  • Vision Disorders / etiology
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Visual Acuity
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiopathology