Most nonprimate mammals possess dichromatic ("red- green color blind") color vision based on short-wavelength-sensitive (S) and medium/long-wavelength-sensitive (ML) cone photoreceptor classes. However, the neural pathways carrying signals underlying the primitive "blue-yellow" axis of color vision in nonprimate mammals are largely unexplored. Here, we have characterized a population of color opponent (blue-ON) cells in recordings from the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus of anesthetized cats. We found five points of similarity to previous descriptions of primate blue-ON cells. First, cat blue-ON cells receive ON-type excitation from S-cones, and OFF-type excitation from ML-cones. We found no blue-OFF cells. Second, the S- and ML-cone-driven receptive field regions of cat blue-ON cells are closely matched in size, consistent with specialization for detecting color contrast. Third, the receptive field center diameter of cat blue-ON cells is approximately three times larger than the center diameter of non-color opponent receptive fields at any eccentricity. Fourth, S- and ML-cones contribute weak surround inhibition to cat blue-ON cells. These data show that blue-ON receptive fields in cats are functionally very similar to blue-ON type receptive fields previously described in macaque and marmoset monkeys. Finally, cat blue-ON cells are found in the same layers as W-cells, which are thought to be homologous to the primate koniocellular system. Based on these data, we suggest that cat blue-ON cells are part of a "blue-yellow" color opponent system that is the evolutionary homolog of the blue-ON division of the koniocellular pathway in primates.
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