Single neurons with both form/color differential responses and saccade-related responses in the nonretinotopic pulvinar of the behaving macaque monkey

Louis A. Benevento, John D. Port

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The nonretinotopic portion of the macaque pulvinar complex is interconnected with the occipitoparietal and occipitotemporal transcortical visual systems where information about the location and motion of a visual object or its form and color are modulated by eye movements and attention. We recorded from single cells in and about the border of the dorsal portion of the lateral pulvinar and the adjacent medial pulvinar of awake behaving Macaca mulatto in order to determine how the properties of these two functionally dichotomous cortical systems were represented. We found a class of pulvinar neurons that responded differentially to ten different patterns or broadband wavelengths (colors). Thirty-four percent of cells tested responded to the presentation of at least one of the pattern or color stimuli. These cells often discharged to several of the patterns or colors, but responded best to only one or two of them, and 86% were found to have statistically significant pattern and/or color preferences. Pattern/color preferential cells had an average latency of 79.1 ± 46.0 ms (range 31–186 ms), responding well before most inferotemporal cortical cell responses. Visually guided and memory-guided saccade tasks showed that 58% of pattern/color preferential cells also had saccade-related properties, e.g. directional presaccadic and postsaccadic discharges, and inhibition of activity during the saccade. In the pulvinar, the mean presaccadic response latency was earlier, and the mean postsaccadic response latency was later, than those reported for parietal cortex. We also discovered that the strength of response to patterns or colors changed depending upon the behavioral setting. In comparison to trials in which the monkey fixated dead ahead during passive presentations of pattern and color stimuli, 92% of the cells showed attenuated responses to the same passive presentation of patterns and colors during fixation when these trials were interleaved with trials which also required active saccades to pattern and color targets in the periphery. We conclude that properties which represent the functionally dichotomous object and spatial visual systems are found together in single pulvinar neurons and that the responses of these cells to pattern or color stimuli are influenced by the focus of spatial attention. The pulvinar is the first structure in the brain shown to have neurons which integrate both object and spatial properties and the response latencies indicate that this information is processed before that in cortex. These results are discussed in terms of role of the pulvinar in visual attention as well as its unique role in providing both object feature and spatial location information to the inferotemporal cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-544
Number of pages22
JournalVisual neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1995


  • Form and color
  • Inferotemporal cortex
  • Monkey pulvinar
  • Parietal cortex
  • Saccades

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Sensory Systems


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