Threat anticipation in pulvinar and in superficial layers of primary visual cortex (V1). Evidence from layer-specific ultra-high field 7T fMRI

Ai Koizumi*, Minye Zhan, Hiroshi Ban, Ikuhiro Kida, Federico de Martino, Maarten J. Vaessen, Beatrice de Gelder*, Kaoru Amano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The perceptual system gives priority to threat-relevant signals with survival value. In addition to the processing initiated by sensory inputs of threat signals, prioritization of threat signals may also include processes related to threat anticipation. These neural mechanisms remain largely unknown. Using ultra-high-field 7T fMRI, we show that anticipatory processing takes place in the early stages of visual processing, specifically in the pulvinar and V1. When anticipation of a threat-relevant fearful face target triggered false perception of not-presented target, there was enhanced activity in the pulvinar as well as in the V1 superficial-cortical-depth (layers 1-3). The anticipatory activity was absent in the LGN or higher visual cortical areas (V2-4). The effect in V1 was specific to the perception of fearful face targets and did not generalize to happy face targets. A preliminary analysis showed that the connectivity between the pulvinar and V1 superficial-cortical-depth was enhanced during false perception of threat, indicating that the pulvinar and V1 may interact in preparation of anticipated threat. The anticipatory processing supported by the pulvinar and V1 may play an important role in non-sensory-input driven anxiety states.Significant statement States of anxiety may typically be triggered by mere anticipation of threatening sensory inputs even without actual presentation. However, the mechanisms which mere anticipation of threat modulates the processing of incoming sensory inputs remains poorly understood, partly because the neural mechanisms underlying anxiety are often examined by measuring the effects initiated by visual presentation of actual threat stimuli. This study addresses how anticipation of threat modulates our visual system in its earliest stages. Specifically, this study shows that activity in the pulvinar and V1 is modulated based on anticipation of threat signals (fearful faces), leading to false perception of anticipated-yet-not presented threat signals.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberARTN 0429-19.2019
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • 7 tesla fMRI
  • fearful face
  • pulvinar
  • threat perception
  • V1 cortical layer
  • FEAR


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