Cortical hierarchy reflected in the organization of intrinsic connections in macaque monkey visual cortex

J Comp Neurol. 1993 Aug 1;334(1):19-46. doi: 10.1002/cne.903340103.


Neuronal response properties vary markedly at increasing levels of the cortical hierarchy. At present it is unclear how these variations are reflected in the organization of the intrinsic cortical circuitry. Here we analyze patterns of intrinsic horizontal connections at different hierarchical levels in the visual cortex of the macaque monkey. The connections were studied in tangential sections of flattened cortices, which were injected with the anterograde tracer biocytin. We directly compared the organization of connections in four cortical areas representing four different levels in the cortical hierarchy. The areas were visual areas 1, 2, 4 and Brodman's area 7a (V1, V2, V4 and 7a, respectively). In all areas studied, injections labeled numerous horizontally coursing axons that formed dense halos around the injection sites. Further away, the fibers tended to form separate clusters. Many fibers could be traced along the way from the injection sites to the target clusters. At progressively higher order areas, there was a striking increase in the spread of intrinsic connections: from a measured distance of 2.1 mm in area V1 to 9.0 mm in area 7a. Average interpatch distance also increased from 0.61 mm in area V1 to 1.56 mm in area 7a. In contrast, patch size changed far less at higher order areas, from an average width of 230 micron(s) in area V1 to 310 micron(s) in area 7a. Analysis of synaptic bouton distribution along axons revealed that average interbouton distance remained constant at 6.4 micron(s) (median) in and out of the clusters and in the different cortical areas. Larger injections resulted in a marked increase in the number of labeled patches but only a minor increase in the spread of connections or in patch size. Thus, in line with the more global computational roles proposed for the higher order visual areas, the spread of intrinsic connections is increased with the hierarchy level. On the other hand, the clustered organization of the connections is preserved at higher order areas. These clusters may reflect the existence of cortical modules having blob-like dimensions throughout macaque monkey visual cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Injections
  • Lysine / administration & dosage
  • Lysine / analogs & derivatives
  • Macaca fascicularis / anatomy & histology*
  • Macaca mulatta / anatomy & histology*
  • Visual Cortex / anatomy & histology*


  • biocytin
  • Lysine