Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The ability to selectively process visual inputs and to decide between multiple movement options in an adaptive manner is critical for survival. Such decisions are known to be influenced by factors such as reward expectation and visual saliency. The dorsal pulvinar connects to a multitude of cortical areas that are involved in visuospatial memory and integrate information about upcoming eye movements with expected reward values. However, it is unclear whether the dorsal pulvinar is critically involved in spatial memory and reward-based oculomotor decision behavior. To examine this, we reversibly inactivated the dorsal portion of the pulvinar while monkeys performed a delayed memory saccade task that included choices between equally or unequally rewarded options. Pulvinar inactivation resulted in a delay of saccade initiation toward memorized contralesional targets but did not affect spatial memory. Furthermore, pulvinar inactivation caused a pronounced choice bias toward the ipsilesional hemifield when the reward value in the two hemifields was equal. However, this choice bias could be alleviated by placing a high reward target into the contralesional hemifield. The bias was less affected by the manipulation of relative visual saliency between the two competing targets. These results suggest that the dorsal pulvinar is involved in determining the behavioral desirability of movement goals while being less critical for spatial memory and reward processing.