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J Neurophysiol. 1976 Mar;39(2):354-69.

Effect of pulvinar lesions on visual pattern discrimination in monkeys.


This study compares the performance (percent correct responses and reaction times) of three unoperated control monkeys with the postoperative performance of eight monkeys with pulvinar lesions, either inferior pulvinar or medial and lateral pulvinar, on a tachistoscopically presented visual pattern-discrimination task highly demanding of attention. To further emphasize and assess the attentional factor in visual pattern discrimination, all monkeys who attained criterion performance (90% correct response on three consecutive sessions of 100 trials each) were tested for the effects of visually distracting interference stimuli added to the original discriminative stimuli. In addition, retention of postoperatively learned discriminations was tested after a 6-wk interval withou training and compared with the performance of control monkeys. Four monkeys with only inferior pulvinar lesions and one monkey with inferior pulvinar plus medial and lateral pulvinar lesions were markedly impaired in the postoperative learning of a visual pattern discrimination. Three of these monkeys failed to acquire criterion perfromance in 9,000 or more training trials, while two learned to ceiterion level only after prolonged training (7,400 and 6,900 trials). In contrast, monkeys with medial and lateral pulvinar lesions showed no deficit in learning ability compared to unoperated control monkeys. Furthermore, the performance of the two monkeys with inferior pulvinar lesions, who attained the criterion level of learning only with difficulty, was further impaired by the addition of distracting interference stimuli, where the performance of monkeys with medial and lateral pulvinar lesions as well as the control monkeys was only temporarily disrupted by this procedure. None of the monkeys with pulvinar lesions, who were tested for retention of the postoperatively learned discrimination, showed appreciable deficits in comparison to control monkeys. All monkeys, including controls and those uith pulvinar lesions who were able to learn the visual pattern discrimination, showed a common pattern of reaction time (RT) change during the course of the learning; that is, RT was low during change-level performance, increased during learning, and decreased once criterion performance was achieved. Reaction times of monkeys with inferior pulvinar lesions tended to be longer than for controls or for those with medial and lateral pulvinar lesions. These results provide the first behavior evidence that the inferior pulvinar of monkeys is involved in visual pattern discrimination and add further support to the concept of a second visual system in which the inferior pulvinar plays a role. The attentional aspects of the visual pattern-discrimination task employed in this study and the additional effects obtained with distracting stimuli suggest that the impairments arising from inferior pulvinar lesions may be dependent in part on visual attentional factors.

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