A simpler primate brain: the visual system of the marmoset monkey

Front Neural Circuits. 2014 Aug 8;8:96. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2014.00096. eCollection 2014.


Humans are diurnal primates with high visual acuity at the center of gaze. Although primates share many similarities in the organization of their visual centers with other mammals, and even other species of vertebrates, their visual pathways also show unique features, particularly with respect to the organization of the cerebral cortex. Therefore, in order to understand some aspects of human visual function, we need to study non-human primate brains. Which species is the most appropriate model? Macaque monkeys, the most widely used non-human primates, are not an optimal choice in many practical respects. For example, much of the macaque cerebral cortex is buried within sulci, and is therefore inaccessible to many imaging techniques, and the postnatal development and lifespan of macaques are prohibitively long for many studies of brain maturation, plasticity, and aging. In these and several other respects the marmoset, a small New World monkey, represents a more appropriate choice. Here we review the visual pathways of the marmoset, highlighting recent work that brings these advantages into focus, and identify where additional work needs to be done to link marmoset brain organization to that of macaques and humans. We will argue that the marmoset monkey provides a good subject for studies of a complex visual system, which will likely allow an important bridge linking experiments in animal models to humans.

Keywords: Callitrichidae; extrastriate cortex; retina; striate cortex; thalamus; vision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Callithrix / anatomy & histology*
  • Eye*
  • Humans
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways