Jonathan B. Levitt

Neurophysiology and neuroanatomy of the mammalian central visual pathways

Our laboratory aims to understand the physiological properties and anatomical connections of neurons in visual areas of mammalian cerebral cortex. The ultimate goal of this work is to understand visual perception in terms of its underlying neural substrates. We now know that there are over 2 dozen distinct areas of mammalian cerebral cortex with visual functions, yet we do not know why there are so many visual areas, or indeed how single neurons in any area come to have the functional properties that they do. It is also now clear that the responses of neurons are not so rigidly hardwired as previously thought. Rather, a single visual neuron's responses to a given stimulus vary dynamically according to the context in which that stimulus is viewed. Specifically, although responses can be evoked from a neuron only when stimuli fall within a restricted portion of the visual field, stimuli falling outside that region do not themselves evoke responses but at any moment can dramatically enhance or suppress a simultaneously evoked response. A major focus of our research is understanding this phenomenon and its development, crucial to our basic understanding of how the brain dynamically transforms sensory signals into neural responses. A second focus of our work is characterizing the visual response properties of neurons in a number of different areas of cerebral cortex; understanding differences among areas will clarify the perceptual abilities mediated by those areas. To address these questions, we employ both electrophysiological recording as well as neuroanatomical techniques; these allow one to study not only the physiological properties of brain cells, but also the underlying structural basis for how such functional properties are constructed by the brain.

Representative Publications

Gegenfurtner, K.R., Kiper, D.C., and Levitt, J.B. 1997. Functional properties of neurons in macaque area V3. J. Neurophysiol. 77: 1906-1923.

 Levitt, J.B. and Lund, J.S. 1997. Contrast dependence of contextual effects in primate visual cortex. Nature 387: 73-76.

Kiper, D.C., Levitt, J.B., and Gegenfurtner, K.R. 1999. Chromatic signals in extrastriate areas V2 and V3. In: Color vision: from molecular genetics to perception (eds. K.R. Gegenfurtner and L.T. Sharpe). Cambridge University Press, New York NY

Levitt, J.B. and Lund, J.S. 2002. Intrinsic connections in mammalian cerebral cortex. In Cortical areas: unity and diversity (eds. A. Schuez and R. Miller). Taylor & Francis, London UK.

Angelucci, A., Levitt J.B., and Lund, J.S. 2002. Anatomical origins of the classical receptive field and modulatory surround field of single neurons in macaque visual cortical area V1. Prog Brain Res. 136: 373-388.

Angelucci, A., Levitt, J.B., Walton, E.J.S., Hupé, J.-M., Bullier, J. and Lund J.S. 2002. Circuits for local and global signal integration in visual cortex. J. Neurosci. 22: 8633-8646.

Levitt, J.B. and Lund, J.S. Levitt, J.B. and Lund, J.S. 2002. The spatial extent over which neurons in macaque striate cortex pool visual signals. Vis. Neurosci. 19: 439-452.

Cantone G, Xiao J, McFarlane N, & Levitt JB. 2005. Feedback connections to ferret striate cortex: direct evidence for visuotopic convergence of feedback inputs. J. Comp. Neurol. 487: 312-331.

Xiao J, Levitt JB. A new chamber method for mounting tissue sections.  2005. J. Neurosci. Meths. 144: 235-240

Xiao J, Levitt JB, Buffenstein R. 2006. The use of a novel and simple method of revealing neural fibers to show the regression of the lateral geniculate nucleus in the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber). Brain Res. 1077: 81-89.


Cantone G, Xiao J, Levitt JB. 2006. Retinotopic organization of ferret suprasylvian cortex. Vis. Neurosci. 23: 61-77.


Xiao J, Levitt JB, Buffenstein R. 2006. A stereotaxic atlas of the brain of the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber). Neuroscience, 141(3):1415-1435.

Jeffery G, Levitt JB, Cooper H. 2008. Segregated hemispheric pathways through the optic chiasm distinguish primates from rodents. Neuroscience, 157: 637-643.

Shushruth S, Ichida JM, Levitt JB, and Angelucci A. 2009. Comparison of spatial summation properties of neurons in macaque V1 and V2. J Neurophysiology 102(4):2069-83.


1984: B.A. Biophysics University of Pennsylvania

1990: M.A.,Ph.D. Experimental Psychology Center for Neural Science, New York University,

1990-1992: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

1992-1998: Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Ophthalmology , University College London

1998-2002: Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biology, City College of the City University of New York

2003-present: Associate Professor

Publications Teaching

One less car!  

I am an "ancien" of Paris-Brest-Paris 2007 & 2011 , and Boston-Montreal-Boston 2006.

August 2007


Email: jlevitt AT ccny DOT cuny DOT edu


Department of Biology
City College of New York
Room J729 (lab), J731 (office)
160 Convent Avenue
New York NY 10031 USA

Last update 1 Jan 2012.