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J Neurophysiol. 1999 Dec;82(6):3527-40.

Specificity and strength of retinogeniculate connections.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Retinal ganglion cells and their target neurons in the principal layers of the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of the thalamus have very similar, center-surround receptive fields. Although some geniculate neurons are dominated by a single retinal afferent, others receive both strong and weak inputs from several retinal afferents. In the present study, experiments were performed in the cat that examined the specificity and strength of monosynaptic connections between retinal ganglion cells and their target neurons. The responses of 205 pairs of retinal ganglion cells and geniculate neurons with overlapping receptive-field centers or surrounds were studied. Receptive fields were mapped quantitatively using a white-noise stimulus; connectivity was assessed by cross-correlating the retinal and geniculate spike trains. Of the 205 pairs, 12 were determined to have monosynaptic connections. Both the likelihood that cells were connected and the strength of connections increased with increasing similarity between retinal and geniculate receptive fields. Connections were never found between cells with <50% spatial overlap between their centers. The results suggest that although geniculate neurons often receive input from several retinal afferents, these multiple afferents represent a select subset of the retinal ganglion cells with overlapping receptive-field centers.

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