The ventro-lateral pulvinar is reciprocally connected with the visual areas of the ventral stream that are important for object recognition. To understand the mechanisms of attentive stimulus processing in this pulvinar-cortex loop, we investigated the interactions between the pulvinar, area V4, and IT cortex in a spatial-attention task. Sensory processing and the influence of attention in the pulvinar appeared to reflect its cortical inputs. However, pulvinar deactivation led to a reduction of attentional effects on firing rates and gamma synchrony in V4, a reduction of sensory-evoked responses and overall gamma coherence within V4, and severe behavioral deficits in the affected portion of the visual field. Conversely, pulvinar deactivation caused an increase in low-frequency cortical oscillations, often associated with inattention or sleep. Thus, cortical interactions with the ventro-lateral pulvinar are necessary for normal attention and sensory processing and for maintaining the cortex in an active state.
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