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Effect of feature-selective attention on neuronal responses in macaque area MT

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Xing Chen, Professor Alexander Thiele



Chen X, Hoffmann KP, Albright TD, Thiele A. Effect of feature-selective attention on neuronal responses in macaque area MT. J Neurophysiol 107: 1530-1543, 2012. First published December 14, 2011; doi:10.1152/jn.01042.2010.-Attention influences visual processing in striate and extrastriate cortex, which has been extensively studied for spatial-, object-, and feature-based attention. Most studies exploring neural signatures of feature-based attention have trained animals to attend to an object identified by a certain feature and ignore objects/displays identified by a different feature. Little is known about the effects of feature-selective attention, where subjects attend to one stimulus feature domain (e.g., color) of an object while features from different domains (e.g., direction of motion) of the same object are ignored. To study this type of feature-selective attention in area MT in the middle temporal sulcus, we trained macaque monkeys to either attend to and report the direction of motion of a moving sine wave grating (a feature for which MT neurons display strong selectivity) or attend to and report its color (a feature for which MT neurons have very limited selectivity). We hypothesized that neurons would up-regulate their firing rate during attend-direction conditions compared with attend-color conditions. We found that feature-selective attention significantly affected 22% of MT neurons. Contrary to our hypothesis, these neurons did not necessarily increase firing rate when animals attended to direction of motion but fell into one of two classes. In one class, attention to color increased the gain of stimulus-induced responses compared with attend-direction conditions. The other class displayed the opposite effects. Feature-selective activity modulations occurred earlier in neurons modulated by attention to color compared with neurons modulated by attention to motion direction. Thus feature-selective attention influences neuronal processing in macaque area MT but often exhibited a mismatch between the preferred stimulus dimension (direction of motion) and the preferred attention dimension (attention to color).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Chen X, Hoffmann KP, Albright TD, Thiele A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Neurophysiology

Year: 2012

Volume: 107

Issue: 5

Pages: 1530-1543

Print publication date: 14/12/2011

Date deposited: 20/03/2013

ISSN (print): 0022-3077

ISSN (electronic): 1522-1598

Publisher: American Physiological Society


DOI: 10.1152/jn.01042.2010


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Funder referenceFunder name
Wellcome Trust
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Hertie Foundation
Howard Hughes
Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP)
G0700976Medical Research Council (MRC)