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J Neurosci. 2004 May 26;24(21):4962-70.

A dissociation of motion and spatial-pattern vision in the avian telencephalon: implications for the evolution of "visual streams".

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Department of Psychology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2E9.


The ectostriatum is a large visual structure in the avian telencephalon. Part of the tectofugal pathway, the ectostriatum receives a large ascending thalamic input from the nucleus rotundus, the homolog of the mammalian pulvinar complex. We investigated the effects of bilateral lesions of the ectostriatum in pigeons on visual motion and spatial-pattern perception tasks. To test motion perception, we measured performance on a task requiring detection of coherently moving random dots embedded in dynamic noise. To test spatial-pattern perception, we measured performance on the detection of a square wave grating embedded in static noise. A double dissociation was revealed. Pigeons with lesions to the caudal ectostriatum showed a performance deficit on the motion task but not the grating task. In contrast, pigeons with lesions to the rostral ectostriatum showed a performance deficit on the grating task but not the motion task. Thus, in the avian telencephalon, there is a separation of visual motion and spatial-pattern perception as there is in the mammalian telencephalon. However, this separation of function is in the targets of the tectofugal pathway in pigeons rather than in the thalamofugal pathway as described in mammals. The implications of these findings with respect to the evolution of the visual system are discussed. Specifically, we suggest that the principle of parallel visual streams originated in the tectofugal pathway rather than the thalamofugal pathway.

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