The course of optic axons that take different routes at the chiasm have been traced through horizontally sectioned optic nerves in the cat, after unilateral injections of horseradish peroxide into the optic tract. Behind the eye and for most of the course of the nerve, nearly all of the axons that remain uncrossed at the chiasm are located in a retinotopically appropriate position, in the lateral aspect of the nerve. However, in the most caudal segment of the nerve an increasing proportion of these axons are located in regions that are retinotopically inappropriate. Just before the nerve joins the chiasm, uncrossed axons can be found across the full medio-lateral extent of the nerve, although there is still a relative increase in their density laterally.
Labeled axons that cross at the chiasm course in a relatively parallel manner along the greater proportion of the nerve. However, in the caudal segment of the nerve their relative positions change and they appear to course in an irregular manner. This occurs where the uncrossed projection becomes increasingly more widespread.
Axons in the optic nerve are grouped into fascicules. This pattern of organization also changes in the caudal region of the nerve. Although clear fascicular patterns are present along the greater part of the nerve, they become progressively less distinct caudally. The change in the pattern of fasciculation occurs over the same region of the nerve as the relative changes in axon trajectory and distribution.
These results demonstrate that irrespective of chiasmatic route, optic axons in the cat are reorganized in the caudal segment of the nerve. This reorganization is not confined to changes in relative axon position, but is reflected in the structure of the nerve by the change of axon grouping from a fascicular to a non-fascicular arrangement.