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Subcortical control of visual thresholds in humans evidence for modality specific and retinotopically organized mechanisms of selective attention



Subcortical control of visual thresholds in humans evidence for modality specific and retinotopically organized mechanisms of selective attention



Experimental Brain Research 29(2): 173-190



The control of visual thresholds in relation to selective attention and goal directed saccadic eye movements was studied in human subjects. Visual thresholds increased by about 0.5-1 log unit when targets were repeatedly presented in the periphery of the visual field while the subjects were fixating. The diameter of the adapted area and the amplitude of the threshold elevation increased with retinal eccentricity but did not depend on other stimulus parameters such as target size or target luminosity. Irrespective of target size the diameter of the adapted field was in the range of 5.degree. close to the fovea and reached up to 20.degree. in the visual field periphery. This elevation of detection thresholds could be reset either by adapting a mirror symmetric area in the contralateral visual field or by directing a saccadic eye movement towards a target which was presented in an area mirror symmetric to the adapted field. When saccades were performed in the absence of the target stimulus or when they were directed towards targets outside the mirror symmetric area no rosetting occurred. Adaptation was further prevented when the subject was allowed to saccade towards the adapting target. Measurements in patients with cortical hemianopia indicated that these phenomena were mediated by subcortical visual centers since they could be influenced by stimulation in the blind hemifield. Participation of subcortical centers, especially of the tectum, was further suggested by the numerous correlations between the present psychophysical observations and the available neurophysiological data on subcortical visual pathways. The retino-tectal system may determine detection thresholds in a retinotopically organized way and guide visual attention towards particular areas within the visual field. The observations in hemianopic patients suggested that these operations are accomplished in parallel to cortical analysis and remain functional after striatal lesions. They are, however, inaccessible to conscious experience.

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Accession: 006534045

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 913514

DOI: 10.1007/bf00237040



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