Crossed-uncrossed projections from primate retina are adapted to disparities of natural scenes

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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Feb 16;118(7):e2015651118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2015651118.


In mammals with frontal eyes, optic-nerve fibers from nasal retina project to the contralateral hemisphere of the brain, and fibers from temporal retina project ipsilaterally. The division between crossed and uncrossed projections occurs at or near the vertical meridian. If the division was precise, a problem would arise. Small objects near midline, but nearer or farther than current fixation, would produce signals that travel to opposite hemispheres, making the binocular disparity of those objects difficult to compute. However, in species that have been studied, the division is not precise. Rather, there are overlapping crossed and uncrossed projections such that some fibers from nasal retina project ipsilaterally as well as contralaterally and some from temporal retina project contralaterally as well as ipsilaterally. This increases the probability that signals from an object near vertical midline travel to the same hemisphere, thereby aiding disparity estimation. We investigated whether there is a deficit in binocular vision near the vertical meridian in humans and found no evidence for one. We also investigated the effectiveness of the observed decussation pattern, quantified from anatomical data in monkeys and humans. We used measurements of naturally occurring disparities in humans to determine disparity distributions across the visual field. We then used those distributions to calculate the probability of natural disparities transmitting to the same hemisphere, thereby aiding disparity computation. We found that the pattern of overlapping projections is quite effective. Thus, crossed and uncrossed projections from the retinas are well designed for aiding disparity estimation and stereopsis.

PMID:33574061 | DOI:10.1073/pnas.2015651118

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