Functional mapping of the magnocellular and parvocellular subdivisions of human LGN

Rachel N. Denison, An T. Vu, Essa Yacoub, David A. Feinberg, Michael A. Silver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The magnocellular (M) and parvocellular (P) subdivisions of primate LGN are known to process complementary types of visual stimulus information, but a method for noninvasively defining these subdivisions in humans has proven elusive. As a result, the functional roles of these subdivisions in humans have not been investigated physiologically. To functionally map the M and P subdivisions of human LGN, we used high-resolution fMRI at high field (7. T and 3. T) together with a combination of spatial, temporal, luminance, and chromatic stimulus manipulations. We found that stimulus factors that differentially drive magnocellular and parvocellular neurons in primate LGN also elicit differential BOLD fMRI responses in human LGN and that these responses exhibit a spatial organization consistent with the known anatomical organization of the M and P subdivisions. In test-retest studies, the relative responses of individual voxels to M-type and P-type stimuli were reliable across scanning sessions on separate days and across sessions at different field strengths. The ability to functionally identify magnocellular and parvocellular regions of human LGN with fMRI opens possibilities for investigating the functions of these subdivisions in human visual perception, in patient populations with suspected abnormalities in one of these subdivisions, and in visual cortical processing streams arising from parallel thalamocortical pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-369
Number of pages12
Issue numberP2
StatePublished - Nov 15 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to R.N.D., NIH Grants 1R44 NS063537 and 1R44 NS073417 to E.Y. and D.A.F., NIH Grants P41 EB015894 and P30 NS076408 to E.Y., NIH Grant R21 EY023091 to M.A.S. and D.A.F., NEI Core Grant EY003176 , and NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program Grant BCS-0821855 .


  • 7T
  • FMRI
  • Lateral geniculate nucleus
  • Magnocellular
  • Parallel processing
  • Parvocellular


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