Parvocellular and magnocellular contributions to visual evoked potentials in humans: stimulation with chromatic and achromatic gratings and apparent motion

Shozo Tobimatsu, Hiroyuki Tomoda, Motohiro Kato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

62 Citations (Scopus)


Psychophysical evidence suggests that two major parallel pathways, the parvocellular (P) and the magnocellular (M) pathways, exist in humans. We herein report that responses specific to the P and M systems can be recorded in human visual evoked potentials (VEPs) by using the appropriate stimuli. The onset of isoluminant chromatic (red-green) and high contrast achromatic sinusoidal gratings were used for stimulating the P-system. A chromatic stimulation evoked a characteristic negative wave (N1) with peak latencies around 120 msec. The amplitude showed an inverse U-shaped function as a function of spatial frequency with a peak at 2 c/deg. In contrast, VEPs to achromatic (black-white) gratings showed different spatial frequency characteristics with a peak at 5.3 c/deg. By varying the luminous intensity ratio between the red and green gratings, N1 was found to reach a maximum during isoluminant stimulation. An apparent motion display was used for stimulating the M-system. The speed of alternation (i.e., the interstimulus interval (ISI)) was varied to record both the transient and steady-state VEPs. Transient VEPs showed triphasic waves with the major positive peak (P1) at around 120 ms. Steady-state VEPs were quasi-sinusoidal waveforms, depending on the ISI, and were quite stable across all subjects. There was a also high correlation between the motion threshold and the VEP amplitude. The above observations indicate that characteristic potentials may distinguish between these two parallel visual systems in humans. Thus, the combined use of isoluminant color and high contrast achromatic gratings and an apparent motion display is considered to be useful for evaluating both systems electrophysiologically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-82
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Neurological Sciences
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1995
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

Cite this