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Top-down coordination of local cortical state during selective attention

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jochem van KempenORCiD, Dr Alwin GieselmannORCiD, Michael Boyd, Professor Alexander Thiele



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020 The Author(s)Spontaneous fluctuations in cortical excitability influence sensory processing and behavior. These fluctuations, long thought to reflect global changes in cortical state, were recently found to be modulated locally within a retinotopic map during spatially selective attention. We report that periods of vigorous (On) and faint (Off) spiking activity, the signature of cortical state fluctuations, are coordinated across brain areas with retinotopic precision. Top-down attention enhanced interareal local state coordination, traversing along the reverse cortical hierarchy. The extent of local state coordination between areas was predictive of behavioral performance. Our results show that cortical state dynamics are shared across brain regions, modulated by cognitive demands and relevant for behavior. How do fluctuations in ongoing brain activity interact with cognitive functions? In this study, van Kempen et al. show that fluctuations in neural excitability are coordinated between visual areas with retinotopic precision. Top-down attention drives interareal coordination along the reverse cortical hierarchy, predicting better behavioral performance with increased coordination.

Publication metadata

Author(s): van Kempen J, Gieselmann MA, Boyd M, Steinmetz NA, Moore T, Engel TA, Thiele A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Neuron

Year: 2021

Volume: 109

Issue: 5

Pages: 894-904

Print publication date: 03/03/2021

Online publication date: 05/01/2021

Acceptance date: 16/12/2020

Date deposited: 26/02/2021

ISSN (print): 0896-6273

ISSN (electronic): 1097-4199

Publisher: Cell Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.12.013


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Funder referenceFunder name
093104Wellcome Trust
MR/P013031/1Medical Research Council (MRC)
R01 EB026949