The representation of the visual field in the primate lateral intraparietal area (LIP) was examined, using a rapid, computer-driven receptive field (RF) mapping procedure. RF characteristics of single LIP neurons could thus be measured repeatedly under different behavioral conditions. Here we report data obtained using a standard ocular fixation task during which the animals were required to monitor small changes in color of the fixated target. In a first step, statistical analyses were conducted in order to establish the experimental limits of the mapping procedure on 171 LIP neurons recorded from three hemispheres of two macaque monkeys. The characteristics of the receptive fields of LIP neurons were analyzed at the single cell and at the population level. Although for many neurons the assumption of a simple two-dimensional gaussian profile with a central area of maximal excitability at the center and progressively decreasing response strength at the periphery can represent relatively accurately the spatial structure of the RF, about 19% of the cells had a markedly asymmetrical shape. At the population level, we observed, in agreement with prior studies, a systematic relation between RF size and eccentricity. However, we also found a more accentuated overrepresentation of the central visual field than had been previously reported and no marked differences between the upper and lower visual representation of space. This observation correlates with an extension of the definition of LIP from the posterior third of the lateral intraparietal sulcus to most of the middle and posterior thirds. Detailed histological analyses of the recorded hemispheres suggest that there exists, in this newly defined unitary functional cortical area, a coarse but systematic topographical organization in area LIP that supports the distinction between its dorsal and ventral regions, LIPd and LIPv, respectively. Paralleling the physiological data, the central visual field is mostly represented in the middle dorsal region and the visual periphery more ventral and posterior. An anteroposterior gradient from the lower to the upper visual field representations can also be identified. In conclusion, this study provides the basis for a reliable mapping method in awake monkeys and a reference for the organization of the properties of the visual space representation in an area LIP extended with respect to the previously described LIP and showing a relative emphasis of central visual field.
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