Cortical processing of visual signals

Caitlin Williams Kiley, William Martin Usrey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter describes how visual information is processed in the cerebral cortex. Major events that precede cortical processing include (1) phototransduction by retinal photoreceptors, (2) the establishment of On and Off pathways and center/surround receptive fields, (3) the transmission of visual signals from the retina to the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), and (4) the transmission of visual signals from the LGN to the primary visual cortex. Although other pathways transmit visual information to the visual cortex, the retino-geniculo-cortical pathway is the major route for visual signal conduction to the cerebral cortex. The retinogeniculo- cortical pathway carries information about the brightness, color, and contrast of objects within a visual scene, as well as information about the timing and motion of these objects. If the human brain used only this rudimentary composition of information to knit together a representation of the surrounding world, people would not be capable of seeing and interpreting the complex scenes of daily life: cars rushing by while waiting to cross the street, a soccer ball flying toward a goal, or even these words you are reading. Humans’ ability to process and react to these highly complicated images is made possible by the properties of the visual cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNeuroscience in the 21st Century
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Basic to Clinical, Second Edition
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781493934744
ISBN (Print)9781493934737
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Binocular disparity
  • Columnar organization
  • Dorsal and ventral visual pathways
  • Extrastriate cortical areas
  • Fusiform face area (FFA)
  • History
  • Laminar organization
  • Lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN)
  • LGN
  • Nissl-stained visual cortex
  • Ocular dominance columns (ODCs)
  • ODCs
  • Orientation columns
  • Posteromedial lateral suprasylvian area (PMLS)
  • Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs)
  • Simple and complex cells
  • Spatial frequency
  • Stimulus properties
  • Temporal frequency
  • Visual cortex
  • Visuotopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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