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Effects of foveal prestriate and inferotemporal lesions on visual discrimination by rhesus monkeys


Ablation of inferotemporal cortex in monkeys impairs visual discrimination learning, and inferotemporal cortex receives visual information from striate cortex by way of the circumstriate belt. Yet most previous studies have failed to find any discrimination impairment after partial ablations of the circumstriate belt.

In this experiment severe impairments in post-operative acquisition and retention of visual discrimination problems were found after lesions of “foveal prestriate cortex”, i.e. the portion of the circumstriate belt which receives a projection from the cortical representation of the fovea in striate cortex and which lies, largely buried, in the ventrolateral portion of prestriate cortex. Although foveal prestriate lesions produced a greater impairment on individual pattern discrimination tasks than inferotemporal lesions, the opposite was true of concurrent visual discrimination tasks in which several different pairs of discriminanda are presented in each testing session until the animal learns to discriminate every pair.

The results are related to a two-stage model of discrimination learning and it is suggested that foveal prestriate lesions impair visual attention or perception, whereas inferotemporal lesions disturb the associative or mnemonic stage of visual discrimination learning.

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This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH-14471, National Science Foundation Grant GB-6999 and United Cerebral Palsy Research Grant R/213/67. For providing travel expenses to the United States A. Cowey wishes to thank the H.E. Durham Fund of King's College, Cambridge, and the Royal Society. The authors are particularly indebted to D.B. Bender for advice and technical assistance. We wish to thank Dr. Mortimer Mishkin for sharing with us his ideas, enthusiasm and unpublished data.

The terminology for the subdivisions of the non-striate visual areas of the occipital and temporal lobes of the monkey is still rather confusing. This is hardly surprising, for the subdivision of these areas on cytoarchitectonic grounds by different authorities is contradictory and the study of the properties of single units in these areas has only begun. Although the recent demonstrations by Zeki (1969b) and Cragg and Ainsworth (1969) that lateral striate cortex has two topographic and a third non-topographic projection onto prestriate cortex is a major step forward, the exact boundaries of these projections and their detailed relations to the various cytoarchitectonic subdivisions and subdivisions based on electrophysiological data are not yet entirely clear. Since the terminology used in behavioural studies of lesions of the non-striate visual areas is also inconsistent, it may be helpful to explain the terminology we have used in this report.

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Cowey, A., Gross, C.G. Effects of foveal prestriate and inferotemporal lesions on visual discrimination by rhesus monkeys. Exp Brain Res 11, 128–144 (1970). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00234318

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Key Words

  • Monkeys
  • Visual discrimination
  • Temporal lobe
  • Visual cortex