Dissecting the circuit for blindsight to reveal the critical role of pulvinar and superior colliculus.


Department of Developmental Physiology, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Okazaki, 444-8585, Japan. [Email]


In patients with damage to the primary visual cortex (V1), residual vision can guide goal-directed movements to targets in the blind field without awareness. This phenomenon has been termed blindsight, and its neural mechanisms are controversial. There should be visual pathways to the higher visual cortices bypassing V1, however some literature propose that the signal is mediated by the superior colliculus (SC) and pulvinar, while others claim the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN) transmits the signal. Here, we directly test the role of SC to ventrolateral pulvinar (vlPul) pathway in blindsight monkeys. Pharmacological inactivation of vlPul impairs visually guided saccades (VGS) in the blind field. Selective and reversible blockade of the SC-vlPul pathway by combining two viral vectors also impairs VGS. With these results we claim the SC-vlPul pathway contributes to blindsight. The discrepancy would be due to the extent of retrograde degeneration of dLGN and task used for assessment.