Spatial properties of koniocellular cells in the lateral geniculate nucleus of the marmoset Callithrix jacchus


Corresponding author P. R. Martin: Department of Physiology, F13, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. Email:


  • The receptive field dimensions, contrast sensitivity and linearity of spatial summation of koniocellular (KC), parvocellular (PC) and magnocellular (MC) cells in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of 11 adult marmosets were measured using achromatic sinusoidal gratings.

  • The receptive field centre diameter of cells in each (PC, KC and MC) class increases with distance from the fovea. There is substantial overlap in centre size between the three cell classes at any eccentricity, but the PC cells have, on average, the smallest centres and the KC cells have the largest. Some PC and KC cells did not respond at all to the grating stimulus.

  • The contrast sensitivity of the receptive field centre mechanism in KC cells decreases in proportion to the centre area. A similar trend was seen for the surround mechanism. These characteristics are common to PC and MC cells, suggesting that they originate at an early stage of visual processing in the retina.

  • The KC cells showed, in general, lower peak evoked discharge rates than PC or MC cells. The spontaneous discharge rate of KC cells was lower than that of PC cells and similar to that of MC cells.

  • The majority of cells in all divisions of the LGN show linear spatial summation. A few cells did show non-linear spatial summation; these cells were predominantly located in the MC and ventral KC layers.

  • The ventral KC layers below and between the MC layers contain cells with larger and more transiently responding receptive fields than cells in the more dorsal KC layers.

  • We conclude that many of the contrast-dependent spatial properties of cells in the marmoset LGN are common to PC, MC and KC cells. The main difference between KC cells and the other two classes is that there is more variability in their response properties, and they are less responsive to high spatial frequencies.