Although the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) is one of the most thoroughly characterized thalamic nuclei, its functional role remains controversial. Traditionally, the LGN in primates has been viewed as the lowest level of a set of feedforward parallel visual pathways to cortex. These feedforward pathways are pictured as connected hierarchies of areas designed to construct the visual image gradually - adding more complex features as one marches through successive levels of the hierarchy. In terms of synapse number and circuitry, the anatomy suggests that the LGN can be viewed also as the ultimate terminus in a series of feedback pathways that originate at the highest cortical levels. Since the visual system is dynamic, a more accurate picture of image construction might be one in which information flows bidirectionally, through both the feedforward and feedback pathways constantly and simultaneously. Based upon evidence from anatomy, physiology, and imaging, we argue that the LGN is more than a simple gate for retinal information. Here, we review evidence that suggests that one function of the LGN is to enhance relevant visual signals through circuits related to both motor planning and attention. Specifically, we argue that major extraretinal inputs to the LGN may provide: (1) eye movement information to enhance and bind visual signals related to new saccade targets and (2) top-down and bottom-up information about target relevance to selectively enhance visual signals through spatial attention.