Attention gates visual coding in the human pulvinar

Nat Commun. 2012;3:1051. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2054.


The pulvinar nucleus of the thalamus is suspected to have an important role in visual attention, based on its widespread connectivity with the visual cortex and the fronto-parietal attention network. However, at present, there remain many hypotheses on the pulvinar's specific function, with sparse or conflicting evidence for each. Here we characterize how the human pulvinar encodes attended and ignored objects when they appear simultaneously and compete for attentional resources. Using multivoxel pattern analyses on data from two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments, we show that attention gates both position and orientation information in the pulvinar: attended objects are encoded with high precision, while there is no measurable encoding of ignored objects. These data support a role of the pulvinar in distractor filtering--suppressing information from competing stimuli to isolate behaviourally relevant objects.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Pulvinar / physiology*
  • Thalamus / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult