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Comparison of the effects of superior colliculus and pulvinar lesions on visual search and tachistoscopic pattern discrimination in monkeys

Experimental Brain Research
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In order to investigate whether pulvinar lesions produce behavioral impairments similar to those that follow superior colliculus lesions, monkeys were tested on a visual search task before and after receiving radiofrequency lesions of either the superior colliculus or pulvinar. The animals searched for a small target pattern within an array of varying numbers of irrelevant patterns. After receiving colliculus lesions, the animals showed marked postoperative increases in either search time, percent errors, or both. By contrast, pulvinar lesions had little or no effect on visual search performance. Similarly, in learning to search for a target they had not previously seen, animals with colliculus lesions were impaired relative to unoperated controls, whereas pulvinar-lesioned animals did not differ from controls. In an attempt to confirm the finding that pulvinar lesions impair tachistoscopic pattern discrimination, we determined exposure-duration thresholds of pulvinar- and colliculus-lesioned monkeys for performance of a pattern discrimination. The thresholds of the colliculus-lesioned monkeys were elevated 20-fold relative to controls. By contrast, thresholds of the pulvinar-lesioned monkeys were normal. We conclude that the pulvinar is not critical for the attentional processes in which the superior colliculus participates.

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