The flow of visual information is clear at the earliest stages: the retina provides the driving (main signature) activity for the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), which in turn drives the primary visual cortex (V1). These driving pathways can be distinguished anatomically from other modulatory pathways that innervate LGN and V1. The path of visual information after V1, however, is less clear. There are two primary feedforward projections to the secondary visual cortex (V2), one from the lateral/inferior pulvinar and the other from V1. Because both lateral/inferior pulvinar and V2 cannot be driven visually following V1 removal, either or both of these inputs to V2 could be drivers. Retinogeniculate and geniculocortical projections are privileged over modulatory projections by their layer of termination, their bouton size, and the presence of vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (Vglut2) or parvalbumin (PV). It has been suggested that such properties might also distinguish drivers from modulators in extrastriate cortex. We tested this hypothesis by comparing lateral pulvinar to V2 and V1 to V2 projections with LGN to V1 projections. We found that V1 and lateral pulvinar projections to V2 are similar in that they target the same layers and lack PV. Projections from pulvinar to V2, however, bear a greater similarity to projections from LGN to V1 because of their larger boutons (measured at the same location in V2) and positive staining for Vglut2. These data lend support to the hypothesis that the pulvinar could act as a driver for V2.
Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.