Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Your Brain's Switchboard Operator
Did you know that deep within your brain there is a swithboard operator? It's the pulvinar. Its job it to regulate communication between clusters of brain cells as your brain focuses on the people and objects that need your attention—to make sure that separate areas of your visual cortex are communicating about the same external information. The pulvinar appears to provide guidance for your behaviors. For example, without the pulvinar, your observation of an oncoming semi-truck as you start to cross a busy street might get lost in a jumble of other stimuli. fMRI study results of the pulvinar could assist with developing treatment strategies for medical disorders characterized by a failure of attention mechanisms (e.g., ADHD, schizophrenia, spatial neglect that involves an inability to detect stimuli often observed following a stroke). Results of the Princeton study suggest that visual information is not transmitted solely through a network of areas in the visual cortex, but involves the pulvinar as an important regulator of neural transmission.