Retinal ganglion cells that project to the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus in the macaque monkey

Neuroscience. 1984 Aug;12(4):1101-23. doi: 10.1016/0306-4522(84)90006-x.


Horseradish peroxidase was deposited in the optic nerve to retrogradely label and reveal the dendritic form of all classes of ganglion cell, or it was injected into the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus to reveal only those classes projecting to the thalamus. The results were compared with those of the accompanying paper in which the ganglion cells projecting to the midbrain are selectively revealed. Two major classes of ganglion cells are described, the P alpha and P beta cells. For both classes dendritic field size increases with eccentricity from the fovea and there is no overlap in the two classes at any given eccentricity. Cell body size shows a similar mean difference but with a slight overlap. Both cell bodies and dendritic fields are larger along the temporal horizontal meridian than the nasal horizontal meridian, for P alpha and for P beta cells, but these differences are reduced when naso-temporal differences in ganglion cell density are taken into account, that is, size correlates closely with density. Injections restricted to the parvocellular layers of the lateral geniculate nucleus labelled almost exclusively P beta cells, whereas injections confined to the magnocellular layers labelled almost exclusively P alpha cells. As midbrain injections label no P beta cells and few P alpha cells it can be shown that about 80% of ganglion cells are P beta cells projecting to parvocellular lateral geniculate nucleus, and that about 10% are P alpha cells projecting to magnocellular layers. The coverage factor, that is the number of cells covering each point on the retina, varied from 1.9-2.3 for P beta cells, and from 2-7 for P alpha cells. Comparing the results with those of comparable investigations on cats and rabbits shows a much clearer segregation of the terminal targets of different classes of ganglion cell in monkeys, the greatest difference being the absence in the monkey of a projection to the geniculate from gamma- and epsilon-like cells. Further, axons which branch and innervate both thalamus and midbrain are rare in monkeys but common in other mammals. Comparing the results with those from physiological investigations suggests that the P beta cells correspond to colour-opponent cells, whereas P alpha cells correspond to the achromatic broad-band magnocellular cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Geniculate Bodies / anatomy & histology*
  • Geniculate Bodies / cytology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Optic Nerve / cytology
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / cytology*
  • Visual Pathways / anatomy & histology