A role of the human thalamus in predicting the perceptual consequences of eye movements

Front Syst Neurosci. 2013 Apr 23;7:10. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2013.00010. eCollection 2013.


Internal monitoring of oculomotor commands may help to anticipate and keep track of changes in perceptual input imposed by our eye movements. Neurophysiological studies in non-human primates identified corollary discharge (CD) signals of oculomotor commands that are conveyed via thalamus to frontal cortices. We tested whether disruption of these monitoring pathways on the thalamic level impairs the perceptual matching of visual input before and after an eye movement in human subjects. Fourteen patients with focal thalamic stroke and 20 healthy control subjects performed a task requiring a perceptual judgment across eye movements. Subjects reported the apparent displacement of a target cue that jumped unpredictably in sync with a saccadic eye movement. In a critical condition of this task, six patients exhibited clearly asymmetric perceptual performance for rightward vs. leftward saccade direction. Furthermore, perceptual judgments in seven patients systematically depended on oculomotor targeting errors, with self-generated targeting errors erroneously attributed to external stimulus jumps. Voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping identified an area in right central thalamus as critical for the perceptual matching of visual space across eye movements. Our findings suggest that trans-thalamic CD transmission decisively contributes to a correct prediction of the perceptual consequences of oculomotor actions.

Keywords: corollary discharge; efference copy; human; lesion; prediction; sensorimotor; thalamus; visual stability.