Dissociating emotion and attention functions in the pulvinar nucleus of the thalamus

Isabel Arend, Avishai Henik, Hadas Okon-Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Recent models on emotional processing consider a major role for the pulvinar in the coordination of emotion processing; however, these models do not specify the type of cognitive mechanisms that the pulvinar may be subserving during emotional processing. In this opinion paper, we focus on the role of the different pulvinar subdivisions in emotion and attention. First, we review a number of neuropsychology studies and recent models that indicate that the medial nucleus of the pulvinar is critical for intact emotional processing. Then, we suggest that the role of the medial pulvinar in emotional processing is binding emotionally relevant features during working memory updating. Method: We carefully examined reports that describe different cognitive impairments following lesions to different pulvinar subdivisions. Results: By linking these detailed neuropsychology reports to recent neuroimaging findings, we show that lesions to specific parts of the pulvinar can dramatically affect attentional processes while leaving emotion processing spared. Conclusions: We suggest a comprehensive model that specifies the functional role of the different pulvinar subdivisions in emotion-attention interplay. We propose that the impairments in emotional processing following lesions to the medial pulvinar may be related to the role of this nucleus in emotionally relevant working memory updating. The aim of this model is to foster future research examining specific functions along the different anatomical pulvinar subdivisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-196
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 American Psychological Association.


  • Attention
  • Emotion
  • Medial pulvinar
  • Working memory updating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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