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J Neurophysiol. 1994 Jul;72(1):402-20.

Effects of aging on the primate visual system: spatial and temporal processing by lateral geniculate neurons in young adult and old rhesus monkeys.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center, Madison.


1. Visual abilities decline during normal aging, and many of these declines are due to neural changes in the retina or central visual pathways. We have begun studies of the primate visual system to investigate the location and nature of these changes as well as to answer general questions about the effects of aging on neural function. We began with the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) because it is the main structure through which visual information passes on the way to cortex and because the parallel parvocellular and magnocellular pathways, which may be affected differently by aging, are anatomically distinct there. 2. Single-cell recordings were made in the LGN of young adult (5-16 yr) and old (25-28 yr) rhesus monkeys. We made quantitative measures of a wide variety of response properties for a large number of parvocellular (n = 257) and magnocellular (n = 113) neurons in the two groups of animals. As a result, in addition to studying the effects of aging, we were able to make quantitative comparisons between parvocellular and magnocellular neurons using larger samples than have been studied previously and for some properties that have not been studied before. 3. We found that magnocellular neurons have significantly higher maximal response rates and signal-to-noise ratios than parvocellular neurons. However, response latencies to visual stimulation were similar for neurons in the two types of layers. In agreement with previous studies, magnocellular neurons had higher maximal contrast sensitivity and higher contrast gain than parvocellular neurons. However, the sensitivity difference occurred because nearly all of the neurons with low sensitivities (< 10) were in the parvocellular layers, not because neurons in the magnocellular layers had the highest sensitivities. 4. Neurons with the smallest receptive-field centers, the highest spatial-frequency resolutions, and the highest optimal spatial frequencies were found in the parvocellular layers. However, the overall distributions of each of these properties overlapped substantially for neurons in the two types of layers, and the mean values were not significantly different. The mean high temporal-frequency cutoff was significantly higher for magnocellular than parvocellular neurons, but the difference was small (only 3 Hz), and it occurred because many parvocellular neurons had lower cutoffs than any seen in the magnocellular layers, not because magnocellular neurons had the highest temporal-frequency cutoffs. Parvocellular neurons also had narrower temporal-frequency tuning than magnocellular neurons. However, there was no significant difference in optimal temporal frequency.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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