Contralateral visual hemifield representations in the human pulvinar nucleus

J Neurophysiol. 2007 Sep;98(3):1600-9. doi: 10.1152/jn.00419.2007. Epub 2007 Jul 5.


The pulvinar is a major nucleus of the thalamus. Macaque pulvinar includes two subregions that are connected to the visual cortex and are retinotopically organized, but the organizing principles of the visual portions of the human pulvinar are unknown. We employed two tasks to address the question of whether human pulvinar exhibits spatial organization using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging. The first was a global-motion discrimination with a rich visual stimulus and the second a luminance-discrimination task of similar difficulty that used a minimal visual stimulus. Both tasks required central fixation and covert peripheral attention. A group analysis of blood-oxygen-level-dependent responses elicited in the motion-discrimination task revealed activity bilaterally in the ventral pulvinar (z = 2 in Talairach space). Clear position specificity was observed with activity elicited only by contralateral stimuli. Ipsilateral stimuli caused suppression. This locus of activity is distinct from the more dorsal (z = 10) region of the pulvinar that has previously been reported to be visually responsive but not retinotopic. In the luminance-discrimination task, similar activity was seen, but it was weaker and detectable only in the left pulvinar. In additional experiments with no task, passively viewed global-motion stimuli also activated the ventral pulvinar bilaterally. Our results show for the first time a distinct, bilateral visual representation in human inferior pulvinar that appears to be contralaterally organized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Macaca
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Pulvinar / anatomy & histology
  • Pulvinar / physiology*
  • Space Perception
  • Visual Fields / physiology*