Major Feedforward Thalamic Input Into Layer 4C of Primary Visual Cortex in Primate

Cereb Cortex. 2019 Jan 1;29(1):134-149. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhx311.


One of the underlying principles of how mammalian circuits are constructed is the relative influence of feedforward to recurrent synaptic drive. It has been dogma in sensory systems that the thalamic feedforward input is relatively weak and that there is a large amplification of the input signal by recurrent feedback. Here we show that in trichromatic primates there is a major feedforward input to layer 4C of primary visual cortex. Using a combination of 3D-electron-microscopy and 3D-confocal imaging of thalamic boutons we found that the average feedforward contribution was about 20% of the total excitatory input in the parvocellular (P) pathway, about 3 times the currently accepted values for primates. In the magnocellular (M) pathway it was around 15%, nearly twice the currently accepted values. New methods showed the total synaptic and cell densities were as much as 150% of currently accepted values. The new estimates of contributions of feedforward synaptic inputs into visual cortex call for a major revision of the design of the canonical cortical circuit.

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

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure
  • Primates
  • Thalamus / physiology*
  • Thalamus / ultrastructure
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / ultrastructure