Parallel colour-opponent pathways to primary visual cortex

Nature. 2003 Dec 11;426(6967):668-71. doi: 10.1038/nature02167.


The trichromatic primate retina parses the colour content of a visual scene into 'red/green' and 'blue/yellow' representations. Cortical circuits must combine the information encoded in these colour-opponent signals to reconstruct the full range of perceived colours. 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.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Color*
  • Geniculate Bodies / cytology
  • Geniculate Bodies / drug effects
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology
  • Macaca fascicularis / physiology*
  • Muscimol / pharmacology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / drug effects
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / cytology
  • Visual Pathways / drug effects
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / drug effects


  • Muscimol