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BASIC VISUAL PATHWAYS

A. The pathway: Vision is generated by photoreceptors in the retina, a layer of cells at the back of the eye. The information leaves the eye by way of the optic nerve, and there is a partial crossing of axons at the optic chiasm. After the chiasm, the axons are called the optic tract. The optic tract wraps around the midbrain to get to the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), where all the axons must synapse. From there, the LGN axons fan out through the deep white matter of the brain as the optic radiations, which will ultimately travel to primary visual cortex, at the back of the brain. B. Visual fields: Information about the world enters both eyes with a great deal of overlap. Try closing one eye, and you will find that your range of vision in the remaining eye is mainly limited by your nose. The image projected onto your retina can be cut down the middle, with the fovea defining the center. Now you have essentially two halves of the retina, a left half and a right half. Generally, the halves are referred to as a temporal half (next to your temple) and a nasal half (next to your nose).

Visual images are inverted as they pass through the lens. Therefore, in your right eye, the nasal retina sees the right half of the world, while the temporal retina sees the left half of the world. Notice also that the right nasal retina and the left temporal retina see pretty much the same thing. If you drew a line through the world at your nose, they would see everything to the right of that line. That field of view is called the right hemifield.

Damaging the pathway after the chiasm. already positioned to see the opposite side of the world. though. what you see is divided into right and left hemifields. the fibers from the retina sort themselves out to separate right hemifield from left hemifield. To insure that the brain doesn't get extraneous information. will damage . both eyes are actually seeing it . The left half of the brain controls the right side of the body.analogous to closing one eye. both hemifields .whereas the temporal retinas. Here is what it looks like: The practical consequences of this crossing are that damaging the visual system before the chiasm will affect one eye. Specifically. fibers from the nasal retinas cross over at the optic chiasm .but the image will be falling on one nasal retina and one temporal retina.this is crucial for depth perception . do not cross. Why bother to divide the retinas at all? Recall that the brain works on a crossed wires system. and vice versa. Each eye gets information from both hemifields. For every object that you can see.So. Therefore the left half of the brain is only interested in visual input from the right side of the world.

C. You can think of these circles as a pair of goggles that the patient is looking through. and see what was affected.the right circle represents the right eye. from straight ahead to one side. called "perimetry charts" as below. For example: Now. and only one hemifield. follow the fibers back to the retina. and drawn from the patient's perspective . and you blacken those parts of the goggles where vision is lost. Notice that there are lines and numbers drawn on the visual field diagram. determine what parts of the patient's visual field will be affected. There is no easy way to imagine what this would look like. This is done separately for each eye. + + + + + + + . Lesions The easiest way to demonstrate to yourself the consequences of lesions is to strike through a pathway. Scroll down for the answers. The way to record a loss of visual field is with two circles. try to draw visual field diagrams for lesions 1-3 in the diagram above. Your field of view would be only 90°. For each "cut".parts of both eyes.

What about the last 3 lesions? To figure these out. Both eyes will be blind to anything on the left side of the world (assuming the eyes are pointed straight ahead). and how they look from the side: .+ + + + Lesion 1: This is analogous to losing an eye. you need to know about Meyer's loop and the optic radiations. This can be caused by a pituitary tumor (the pituitary lies just under the optic chiasm). The optic radiations follow a very wide three dimensional arc. Lesion 3: This lesion represents the loss of the left hemifield. One eye is completely blacked out. Lesion 2: Here you have only cut inputs from the nasal retinas. Here is how the radiations are conventionally drawn. so you would lose peripheral vision on both sides.

are carrying information from the upper visual world. the lower half of the retina sees the upper half of the world. so that the lower optic radiations. since the lens inverts all images. Recall that. Now try to work through lesions 4-6. + + + + + + + + + + + + Lesion 4: Meyer's loop has been cut. This group of fibers is called Meyer's loop. or Meyer's loop. . so vision will be lost in the upper visual world. This orientation is preserved through the pathway.You can see that the longer loop actually dives into the temporal lobe before it heads back to the occipital lobe. but only in the left hemifield.

Don't confuse the optic chiasm with the anterior commissure. you may be able to see a fine white . D. so you would affect the lower visual world on one side. is buried within this sulcus. In horizontal sections you can see the optic radiations clearly. However. then. First find the calcarine sulcus on the medial surface of the occipital lobe. Vision at the fovea is spared. the most rostral thing you will see is the optic chiasm. the chiasm will always hang down from the base of the brain. or perhaps due to overlapping blood supply. but a notched hemifield. and you can identify the general vicinity of visual cortex. In a fortuitous section. The optic tracts will diverge and sneak up laterally around the cerebral peduncles before diving into the LGN. while the commissure will be embedded in tissue. Lesion 6: At first this seems to be a straightforward loss of one hemifield.Lesion 5: Here the parietal portion of the optic radiations were cut. Primary visual cortex. Anatomy You should be able to follow the visual pathway through coronal or horizontal sections. In a coronal series. This phenomenon is called macular sparing. perhaps because there is such a large representation of the fovea in the cortex. a curious phenomenon results when cortex itself is lesioned. or V1. The loss of vision is not a complete hemifield.

and gives it a third name. striate cortex. .stripe running within the grey matter inside the sulcus. This stripe marks V1.