Clinical implications of parallel visual pathways

J Am Optom Assoc. 1990 Feb;61(2):98-110.


Visual information travels from the retina to visual cortical areas along at least two parallel pathways. In this paper, anatomical and physiological evidence is presented to demonstrate the existence of, and trace these two pathways throughout the visual systems of the cat, primate, and human. Physiological and behavioral experiments are discussed which establish that these two pathways are differentially sensitive to stimuli that vary in spatial and temporal frequency. One pathway (M-pathway) is more sensitive to coarse visual form that is modulated or moving at fast rates, whereas the other pathway (P-pathway) is more sensitive to spatial detail that is stationary or moving at slow rates. This difference between the M- and P-pathways is related to some spatial and temporal effects observed in humans. Furthermore, evidence is presented that certain diseases selectively comprise the functioning of M- or P-pathways (i.e., glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, and anisometropic amblyopia), and some of the spatial and temporal deficits observed in these patients are presented within the context of the dysfunction of the M- or P-pathway.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*