The organization of thalamic afferents to the rat's visual cortex was investigated autoradiographically and through the retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase (HRP) following infections into striate and peristriate cortex. The results revealed that Nucleus lateralis posterior (NLP) projects to a large peristriate cortical field that includes areas 18A, 7, and the anterior portion of area 18, and to a circumscribed temporal area corresponding to Krieg's ('46a,b) area 20. The dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (LGNd) was shown to project to two spatially discontinuous cortical areas. The largest geniculate receiving area is partially coextensive with Krieg's area 17, but an extension of this projection posterior and medial to the striate cortex was found. In addition, a geniculate projection to a restricted field located in the lateral peristriate cortex was identified. Concurrent investigations were designed to assess the pattern discrimination abilities of rats prepared with striate cortical ablations, lesions in NLP and combined striate-cortical and thalamic ablations. Comparison of these animals with normal control subjects revealed that the striate cortex in the rat (as in the cat [Doty, '71; Sprague et al., '77] and the tree shrew [Killackey and Diamond, '71; Ware et al., '74]) is not necessary for successful pattern discrimination, and that the geniculo-striate and NLP-extra-striate projection systems are both involved in mediating the visual discriminative abilities of the rat. The results add species generality to the concept that the central connections to the visual cortex are characterized by parallel-conducting thalamic channels and contribute to the growing number of demonstrations that the extra-striate cortex and associated thalamic cell groups contribute significantly to the process of visual-pattern recognition.