Blindsight depends on the lateral geniculate nucleus

Nature. 2010 Jul 15;466(7304):373-7. doi: 10.1038/nature09179. Epub 2010 Jun 23.


Injury to the primary visual cortex (V1) leads to the loss of visual experience. Nonetheless, careful testing shows that certain visually guided behaviours can persist even in the absence of visual awareness. The neural circuits supporting this phenomenon, which is often termed blindsight, remain uncertain. Here we demonstrate that the thalamic lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) has a causal role in V1-independent processing of visual information. By comparing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and behavioural measures with and without temporary LGN inactivation, we assessed the contribution of the LGN to visual functions of macaque monkeys (Macaca mulatta) with chronic V1 lesions. Before LGN inactivation, high-contrast stimuli presented to the lesion-affected visual field (scotoma) produced significant V1-independent fMRI activation in the extrastriate cortical areas V2, V3, V4, V5/middle temporal (MT), fundus of the superior temporal sulcus (FST) and lateral intraparietal area (LIP) and the animals correctly located the stimuli in a detection task. However, following reversible inactivation of the LGN in the V1-lesioned hemisphere, fMRI responses and behavioural detection were abolished. These results demonstrate that direct LGN projections to the extrastriate cortex have a critical functional contribution to blindsight. They suggest a viable pathway to mediate fast detection during normal vision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology*
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiopathology
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / physiopathology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiopathology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*