Segregation of form, color, movement, and depth: anatomy, physiology, and perception

Science. 1988 May 6;240(4853):740-9. doi: 10.1126/science.3283936.


Anatomical and physiological observations in monkeys indicate that the primate visual system consists of several separate and independent subdivisions that analyze different aspects of the same retinal image: cells in cortical visual areas 1 and 2 and higher visual areas are segregated into three interdigitating subdivisions that differ in their selectivity for color, stereopsis, movement, and orientation. The pathways selective for form and color seem to be derived mainly from the parvocellular geniculate subdivisions, the depth- and movement-selective components from the magnocellular. At lower levels, in the retina and in the geniculate, cells in these two subdivisions differ in their color selectivity, contrast sensitivity, temporal properties, and spatial resolution. These major differences in the properties of cells at lower levels in each of the subdivisions led to the prediction that different visual functions, such as color, depth, movement, and form perception, should exhibit corresponding differences. Human perceptual experiments are remarkably consistent with these predictions. Moreover, perceptual experiments can be designed to ask which subdivisions of the system are responsible for particular visual abilities, such as figure/ground discrimination or perception of depth from perspective or relative movement--functions that might be difficult to deduce from single-cell response properties.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Color Perception
  • Depth Perception
  • Form Perception
  • Humans
  • Motion Perception
  • Visual Pathways* / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Pathways* / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*