Dual response modes in lateral geniculate neurons: mechanisms and functions

Vis Neurosci. Mar-Apr 1996;13(2):205-13. doi: 10.1017/s0952523800007446.


Relay cells of the lateral geniculate nucleus, like those of other thalamic nuclei, manifest two distinct response modes, and these represent two very different forms of relay of information to cortex. When relatively hyperpolarized, these relay cells respond with a low threshold Ca2+ spike that triggers a brief burst of conventional action potentials. These cells switch to tonic mode when depolarized, since the low threshold Ca2+ spike, being voltage dependent, is inactivated at depolarized levels. In this mode they relay information with much more fidelity. This switch can occur under the influence of afferents from the visual cortex or parabrachial region of the brain stem. It has been previously suggested that the tonic mode is characteristic of the waking state while the burst mode signals an interruption of the geniculate relay during sleep. This review surveys the key properties of these two response modes and discusses the implications of new evidence that the burst mode may also occur in the waking animal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Geniculate Bodies / cytology
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology