Stereopsis in the Cat: Behavioral Demonstration and Underlying Mechanisms

Neuropsychologia. 1991;29(6):443-64. doi: 10.1016/0028-3932(91)90004-r.


The neural substrates subserving stereopsis were investigated behaviorally and electrophysiologically in the cat. In one set of studies, we examined behaviorally the ability of normal cats to perceive depth on the sole basis of spatial disparity using random-dot stereograms. Results showed that the animals were able to carry out this discrimination. We then evaluated the contribution of the optic chiasm, the corpus callosum and the primary visual cortex to this function. Results indicated that: (1) chiasma transection drastically reduced the ability of the animals to solve the random-dot problem; (2) a callosal split had little or no effect on their ability to relearn the same discrimination; (3) a section of both the corpus callosum and optic chiasm abolished this ability; and (4) bilateral lesions of areas 17-18 also abolished it. In another set of studies, we examined electrophysiologically the properties of neurons in the various visual cortical areas where disparity-based depth discrimination processes are presumed to take place. We recorded from areas 17, 18 and 19 of normal and split-chiasm cats. Results showed that: (1) the primary visual cortex of the normal cat contained cells sensitive to stimulus disparity; (2) these disparity sensitive neurons were also present in area 19 although in a much lower proportion and were more widely tuned than those in areas 17-18; and (3) following the section of the optic chiasm, there was a significant decrease in the number of disparity sensitive cells in areas 17-18, whereas in area 19 they were nearly completely absent. The results obtained from the lesion studies and from the single unit recording experiments indicate that stereoscopic depth perception is highly dependent in the cat upon the integrity of the through-the-chiasm geniculo-striate pathway and its target primary visual cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cats
  • Corpus Callosum / physiology
  • Depth Perception / physiology*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Optic Chiasm / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Vision Disparity / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology