Saccade-related and visual activities in the pulvinar nuclei of the behaving rhesus monkey

D. L. Robinson, S. E. Petersen, W. Keys

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We studied three subdivisions of the pulvinar: a retinotopically organized inferior area (PI), a retinotopically mapped region of the lateral pulvinar (PL), and a separate, visually responsive component of the lateral pulvinar (Pdm). Single neurons were recorded in these regions from awake, trained rhesus monkeys, and we correlated the discharge patterns of the cells with eye movements. About 60% of the neurons discharged after saccadic eye movements in an illuminated environment and had either excitatory, inhibitory, or biphasic (inhibitory-excitatory) response patterns. These responses were most often transient in nature. Neurons with excitatory activity had a mean onset latency of 72 ms after the termination of the eye movement. Latencies for cells with inhibitory responses averaged 58 ms. In sharp contrast, the cells with biphasic response patterns became active before the termination of the eye movement. A unique set of these neurons termed saccade cells, were active with visually guided eye movements in the light, with the same eye movements made to a briefly pulsed target in the dark, and for similar eye movements made spontaneously in total darkness. The activity was present with the appropriate saccade, independent of the beginning eye position. Biphasic response patterns were typical of these saccade cells. Saccade cells were most common in Pdm and PI. About half of the saccade cells also had some visual response that was independent of eye movement. A second group of cells was active with saccadic eye movements in the light but not in the dark. Some of these cells had clear visual responses that could account for their activity following eye movements; others had no clear visual receptive field. Because of these and other physiological data, we propose that the saccade cells found in Pdm may function in a system dealing with visual spatial attention, while those found in PI may have a role in dealing with the visual consequences of eye movements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-634
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 1986
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Monkey
  • Pulvinar
  • Saccadic eye movements
  • Thalamus


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