The smooth monostratified ganglion cell: evidence for spatial diversity in the Y-cell pathway to the lateral geniculate nucleus and superior colliculus in the macaque monkey

J Neurosci. 2008 Nov 26;28(48):12654-71. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2986-08.2008.


In the primate visual system approximately 20 morphologically distinct pathways originate from retinal ganglion cells and project in parallel to the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and/or the superior colliculus. Understanding of the properties of these pathways and the significance of such extreme early pathway diversity for later visual processing is limited. In a companion study we found that the magnocellular LGN-projecting parasol ganglion cells also projected to the superior colliculus and showed Y-cell receptive field structure supporting the hypothesis that the parasol cells are analogous to the well studied alpha-Y cell of the cat's retina. We here identify a novel ganglion cell class, the smooth monostratified cells, that share many properties with the parasol cells. Smooth cells were retrogradely stained from tracer injections made into either the LGN or superior colliculus and formed inner-ON and outer-OFF populations with narrowly monostratified dendritic trees that surprisingly appeared to perfectly costratify with the dendrites of parasol cells. Also like parasol cells, smooth cells summed input from L- and M-cones, lacked measurable S-cone input, showed high spike discharge rates, high contrast and temporal sensitivity, and a Y-cell type nonlinear spatial summation. Smooth cells were distinguished from parasol cells however by smaller cell body and axon diameters but approximately 2 times larger dendritic tree and receptive field diameters that formed a regular but lower density mosaic organization. We suggest that the smooth and parasol populations may sample a common presynaptic circuitry but give rise to distinct, parallel achromatic spatial channels in the primate retinogeniculate pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Cell Shape / physiology
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Dextrans
  • Geniculate Bodies / cytology*
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology
  • Rhodamines
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Superior Colliculi / cytology*
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / cytology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*


  • Dextrans
  • Rhodamines
  • rhodamine dextran