Abstract

Evidence is presented that the phylogenetically older retin-otectal pathway contributes to reflex orienting of visual attention in normal human subjects. The study exploited a lateralized neuroanatomic arrangement of retinotectal pathways that distinguishes them from those of the geniculostriate system; namely, more direct projections to the colliculus from the temporal hemifield. Subjects were tested under monocular viewing conditions and responded to the detection of a peripheral signal by making either a saccade to it or a choice reaction time manual keypress. Attention was summoned by noninformative peripheral precues, and the benefits and costs of attention were calculated relative to a central precue condition. Both the benefits and costs of orienting attention were greater when attention was summoned by signals in the temporal hemifield. This temporal hemifield advantage was present for both saccade and manual responses. These findings converge with observations in patients with occipital and midbrain lesions to show that the phylogenetically older retinotectal pathway retains an important role in controlling visually guided behavior; and they demonstrate the usefulness of temporal-nasal hemifield asymmetries as a marker for investigating extrageniculate vision in humans.

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