Effects of sustained spatial attention in the human lateral geniculate nucleus and superior colliculus

Keith A. Schneider, Sabine Kastner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


The role of subcortical visual structures such as the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and the superior colliculus (SC) in the control of visual spatial attention remains poorly understood. Here, we used high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure responses in the human LGN and SC during sustained spatial attention. Subjects covertly and continuously tracked one of two segments that rotated through the visual field, composed of either moving dots or transient colored shapes. Activity in both nuclei was generally enhanced by attention, independent of the stimulus type, with the voxels responding more sensitively to stimulus contrast (those dominated by magnocellular input) exhibiting greater attentional enhancement. The LGN contained clusters of voxels exhibiting atten- tional enhancement or weak suppression, whereas the SC exhibited predominantly attentional enhancement, which was significantly stronger than in the LGN. The spatial distribution of the attentional effects was unrelated to the retinotopic organization in either structure. The results demonstrate that each of the major subcortical visual pathways participates in attentional selection, and their differential magnitudes of modulation suggest distinct roles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1784-1795
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 11 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


  • Attention
  • Lateral geniculate nucleus
  • Spatial attention
  • Superior colliculus
  • Sustained attention
  • Thalamus


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