• color;
  • fMRI;
  • LGN;
  • S-cone;
  • V1;
  • visual cortex


The lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) is the primary thalamic nucleus that relays visual information from the retina to the primary visual cortex (V1) and has been extensively studied in non-human primates. A key feature of the LGN is the segregation of retinal inputs into different cellular layers characterized by their differential responses to red-green (RG) color (L/M opponent), blue-yellow (BY) color (S-cone opponent) and achromatic (Ach) contrast. In this study we use high-field functional magnetic resonance imaging (4 tesla, 3.6 × 3.6 × 3 mm3) to record simultaneously the responses of the human LGN and V1 to chromatic and Ach contrast to investigate the LGN responses to color, and how these are modified as information transfers between LGN and cortex. We find that the LGN has a robust response to RG color contrast, equal to or greater than the Ach response, but a significantly poorer sensitivity to BY contrast. In V1 at low temporal rates (2 Hz), however, the sensitivity of the BY color pathway is selectively enhanced, rising in relation to the RG and Ach responses. We find that this effect generalizes across different stimulus contrasts and spatial stimuli (1-d and 2-d patterns), but is selective for temporal frequency, as it is not found for stimuli at 8 Hz. While the mechanism of this cortical enhancement of BY color vision and its dynamic component is unknown, its role may be to compensate for a weak BY signal originating from the sparse distribution of neurons in the retina and LGN.