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Abstract

Autoradiographic tracing procedures have been used to study the organization of retinogeniculate axons in seven primates, i.e., four species of New World monkeys, one species of Old World monkeys and two species of prosimians. These data suggest that the basic primated pattern of geniculate lamination consists of two parvocellular layers, two magnocellular layers, and two poorly developed and highly variable superficial (S) layers which are ventrally lacoted. Ocular input to each member of each of the three pairs differs. In the macaque, the squirrel, and the saki monkey, the parvocellular layers subdivide and interdigitate into four leaflets so as to give the appearance of four parvocellular “layers”. These leaflets are much less extensive in the owl and marmoset monkeys. In some individual macaque monkeys, there is further splitting of the parvocellular leaflets into subleaflets, giving the appearance of six parvocellular “layers”. The prosimians (galago and slow loris) have two additional layers that are not found in pithecoid primates, and only one superficial layer is apparent. The two additional layers are termed “koniocellular” since they consist of very small cells. Finally, New and Old World monkeys have both ipsilateral and contralateral retinal input to the interlaminar zones.

We conclude that the basic pattern of lateral geniculate organization is six layers, but not the traditional six. Prosimians have evolved two additional layers, the koniocellular layers, and have possibly lost one superficial layer. Both New World and Old World monkeys have elaborated the parvocellular layers by forming leaflets to varying extents. With the possible exception of the single S layer in prosimians, layers form pairs that are similar in cell types, but different in ocular input.