Fine structure of parvocellular receptive fields in the primate fovea revealed by laser interferometry

Matthew J. McMahon*, Martin J.M. Lankheet, Peter Lennie, David R. Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Optical blurring in the eye prevents conventional physiological techniques from revealing the fine structure of the small parvocellular receptive fields in the primate fovea in vivo. We explored the organization of receptive fields in macaque parvocellular lateral geniculate nucleus cells by using sinusoidal interference fringes formed directly on the retina to measure spatial frequency tuning at different orientations. Most parvocellular cells in and near the fovea respond reliably to spatial frequencies up to and beyond 100 cycles/°of visual angle, implying center input arising mainly from a single cone. Temporal frequency and contrast response characteristics were also measured at spatial frequencies up to 130 cycles/°. We compared our spatial frequency data with the frequency responses of model receptive fields that estimate the number, configuration, and weights of cones that feed the center and surround. On the basis of these comparisons, we infer possible underlying circuits. Most cells had irregular spatial frequency-response curves that imply center input from more than one cone. The measured responses are consistent with a single cone center together with weak input from nearby cones. By exposing a fine structure that cannot be discerned by conventional techniques, interferometry allows functional measurements of the early neural mechanisms in spatial vision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2043-2053
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Acuity
  • Ganglion cells
  • Interferometry
  • LGN
  • Parvocellular
  • Retinal circuitry
  • Spatial vision

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