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J Comp Neurol. 1998 Feb 22;391(4):429-43.

Synaptic and neurochemical characterization of parallel pathways to the cytochrome oxidase blobs of primate visual cortex.

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Department of Cell Biology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37232, USA.


The primary visual cortex (V1) of primates is unique in that it is both the recipient of visual signals, arriving via parallel pathways (magnocellular [M], parvocellular [P], and koniocellular [K]) from the thalamus, and the source of several output streams to higher order visual areas. Within this scheme, output compartments of V1, such as the cytochrome oxidase (CO) rich blobs in cortical layer III, synthesize new output pathways appropriate for the next steps in visual analysis. Our chief aim in this study was to examine and compare the synaptic arrangements and neurochemistry of elements involving direct lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) input from the K pathway with those involving indirect LGN input from the M and P pathways arriving from cortical layer IV. Geniculocortical K axons were labeled via iontophoretic injections of wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase into the LGN and intracortical layer IV axons (indirect P and M pathways to the CO-blobs) were labeled by iontophoretic injections of Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin into layer IV. The neurochemical content of both pre- and postsynaptic profiles was identified by postembedding immunocytochemistry for gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) and glutamate. Sizes of pre- and postsynaptic elements were quantified by using an image analysis system, BioQuant IV. Our chief finding is that K LGN axons and layer IV axons (indirect input from M and P pathways) exhibit different synaptic relationships to CO blob cells. Specifically, our results show that within the CO blobs: 1) all K cell axons contain glutamate, and the vast majority of layer IV axons contain glutamate with only 5% containing GABA; 2) K axons terminate mainly on dendritic spines of glutamatergic cells, while layer IV axons terminate mainly on dendritic shafts of glutamatergic cells; 3) K axons have larger boutons and contact larger postsynaptic dendrites, which suggests that they synapse closer to the cell body within the CO blobs than do layer IV axons. Taken together, these results suggest that each input pathway to the CO blobs uses a different strategy to contribute to the processing of visual information within these compartments.

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