The distribution of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) providing input to the thalamofugal visual system in the pigeon was studied with an anatomical transneuronal transport technique using the fluorescent dye rhodamine β-isothiocyanate (RITC). Unilateral injections of RITC made into the telencephalic visual Wulst resulted in the retrograde (1) first-order labeling (FOL) of dorsal thalamic (n. dorsolateralis anterior and n. superficialis parvocellularis: SPC) and brainstem somata as well as (2) second-order labeling of other cell populations within the brain and of retinal ganglion cells in both eyes obtained after transneuronal transfer of the tracer from neurons labeled directly via FOL. The mapping and counting of labeled RGCs in retinal flat-mounts showed that they were mainly distributed within the nasal portion of the retinal yellow field (YF) and that their total numbers were consistently higher (averaging 57%) in the eye contralateral to the tracer injection. Labeled RGCs in the retinal red field (RF) represented 13.4% and 12.0% of total labeled cells in the ipsilateral and contralateral eye, respectively. Moreover, the average densities of labeled cells/mm2in the RF and YF were respectively 8.4 and 42.8 (ipsilateral) and 17.9 and 54.0 (contralateral). The preferential distribution of labeled RGCs within the nasal YF supports the notion that the thalamofugal visual system in the lateral-eyed pigeon is mainly concerned with viewing in the lateral visual field. Conversely, the relatively low numbers of labeled RGCs observed within the specialized RF indicate that, unlike the case in frontal-eyed bird species and mammals, this system does not appear to be involved in binocular visual processing. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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