The Anatomy and Physiology of Gating Retinal Signals in the Mammalian Lateral Geniculate Nucleus
In the mammalian visual system, the lateral geniculate nucleus is commonly thought to act merely as a relay for the transmission of visual information from the retina to the visual cortex, a relay without significant elaboration in receptive field properties or signal strength. However, many morphological and electrophysiological observations are at odds with this view. In this paper, we will review the different anatomical pathways and biophysical mechanisms possibly implementing a selective gating of visual information flow from the retina to the visual cortex. We will argue that the lateral geniculate nucleus in mammals is one of the earliest sites where selective, visual attention operates and where general changes in neuronal excitability as a function of the behavioral states of the animal, for instance, sleep, paradoxical sleep, arousal, etc., occur.