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Segregated hemispheric pathways through the optic chiasm distinguish primates from rodents

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.09.021
  • Retina
  • Marmoset
  • Vision Development
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Abstract At the optic chiasm retinal fibers either cross the midline, or remain uncrossed. Here we trace hemispheric pathways through the marmoset chiasm and show that fibers from the lateral optic nerve pass directly toward the ipsilateral optic tract without any significant change in fiber order and without approaching the midline, while those from medial regions of the nerve decussate directly. Anterograde labeling from one eye shows that the two hemispheric pathways remain segregated through the proximal nerve and chiasm with the uncrossed confined laterally. Retrograde labeling from the optic tract confirms this. This clearly demonstrates that hemispheric pathways are segregated through the primate chiasm. Previous chiasmatic studies have been undertaken mainly on rodents and ferrets. In these species there is a major change in fiber order pre-chiasmatically, where crossed and uncrossed fibers mix, reflecting their embryological history when all fibers approach the midline prior to their commitment to innervate either hemisphere. This pattern was thought to be common to placental mammals. In marsupials there is no change in fiber order and uncrossed fibers remain confined laterally through nerve and chiasm, again, reflecting their developmental history when all uncrossed fibers avoid the midline. Recently it has been shown that this distinction is not a true dichotomy between placental mammals and marsupials, as fiber order in tree shrews and humans mirrors the marsupial pattern. Architectural differences in the mature chiasm probably reflect different developmental mechanisms regulating pathway choice. Our results therefore suggest that both the organization and development of the primate optic chiasm differ markedly from that revealed in rodents and carnivores.

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