Magnocellular and parvocellular developmental course in infants during the first year of life

Doc Ophthalmol. 2003 Nov;107(3):225-33. doi: 10.1023/b:doop.0000005331.66114.05.


The visual system undergoes major modifications during the first year of life. We wanted to examine whether the magnocellular (M) and parvocellular (P) pathways mature at the same rate or if they follow a different developmental course. A previous study carried out in our laboratory had shown that the N1 and P1 components of pattern visual evoked potentials (PVEPs) were preferentially related to the activity of P and M pathways, respectively. In the present study, PVEPs were recorded at Oz in 33 infants aged between 0 and 52 weeks, in response to two spatial frequencies (0.5 and 2.5 c deg(-1)) presented at four contrast levels (4, 12, 28 and 95%). Results indicate that the P1 component appeared before the N1 component in the periods tested and was unambiguously present at birth. The P1 component showed a rapid gain in amplitude in the following months, to reach a ceiling around 4-6 months. Conversely, the N1 component always appeared later and then gained in amplitude until the end of the first year without reaching a plateau. Latencies were also computed but no developmental dissociation was revealed. Results obtained on amplitude are interpreted as demonstrating a developmental dissociation between the underlying M and P pathways, suggesting that the former is functional earlier and matures faster than the latter during the first year of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*