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Direction-selective single units in the nucleus lentiformis mesencephali of the pigeon (Columba livia)


The receptive field properties of single units within the nucleus lentiformis mesencephali (LM) of the pigeon were studied using electrophysiological methods. Previous studies have suggested that the avian LM may be homologous to the nucleus of the optic tract (NOT) in mammals. Single units in the pigeon LM are similar to mammalian NOT units in that they are direction-selective, mostly for horizontal directions, velocity-selective, have large visual receptive fields and respond preferentially to large stimuli with many visual contrasts. In contrast to most reports of NOT units of mammals, more than half of pigeon LM units prefer high velocities (>10°/s), a large proportion (0.37) prefer non-horizontal directions, and receptive fields that are retinotopically arranged within the LM. The response properties of pigeon LM units are compared to the response properties of units within the accessory optic nucleus (the nucleus of the basal optic root or nBOR). In the avian brain, nBOR neurons respond at low velocities (0.5−5°/s) and respond predominantly to vertical stimulus movement whereas LM units respond over a broader range of velocities (0.2−80°/s) and respond predominantly to horizontal movements. Thus, the LM and nBOR may play different roles in the control of compensatory eye movements.

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Correspondence to B. J. Winterson.

Additional information

This work was supported in part by PHS grant EY03638 to BJW and NSF grant BNS 8312571 to SEB

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Winterson, B.J., Brauth, S.E. Direction-selective single units in the nucleus lentiformis mesencephali of the pigeon (Columba livia). Exp Brain Res 60, 215–226 (1985).

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Key words

  • Pretectum
  • Nucleus lentiformis mesencephali
  • Direction selectivity
  • Pigeon
  • Optomotor
  • Oculomotor