Current evidence supports the view that the visual pulvinar of primates consists of at least five nuclei, with two large nuclei, lateral pulvinar ventrolateral (PLvl) and central lateral nucleus of the inferior pulvinar (PIcl), contributing mainly to the ventral stream of cortical processing for perception, and three smaller nuclei, posterior nucleus of the inferior pulvinar (PIp), medial nucleus of the inferior pulvinar (PIm), and central medial nucleus of the inferior pulvinar (PIcm), projecting to dorsal stream visual areas for visually directed actions. In primates, both cortical streams are highly dependent on visual information distributed from primary visual cortex (V1). This area is so vital to vision that patients with V1 lesions are considered “cortically blind”. When the V1 inputs to dorsal stream area middle temporal visual area (MT) are absent, other dorsal stream areas receive visual information relayed from the superior colliculus via PIp and PIcm, thereby preserving some dorsal stream functions, a phenomenon called “blind sight”. Non-primate mammals do not have a dorsal stream area MT with V1 inputs, but superior colliculus inputs to temporal cortex can be more significant and more visual functions are preserved when V1 input is disrupted. The current review will discuss how the different visual streams, especially the dorsal stream, have changed during primate evolution and we propose which features are retained from the common ancestor of primates and their close relatives.
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