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Feedforward attentional selection in sensory cortex

Publication year 2023
Published in Nature Communications
Authors J Westerberg, Jeffrey D Schall, Geoffrey F Woodman, Alexander Maier

Salient objects grab attention because they stand out from their surroundings. Whether this phenomenon is accomplished by bottom-up sensory processing or requires top-down guidance is debated. We tested these alternative hypotheses by measuring how early and in which cortical layer(s) neural spiking distinguished a target from a distractor. We measured synaptic and spiking activity across cortical columns in mid-level area V4 of male macaque monkeys performing visual search for a color singleton. A neural signature of attentional capture was observed in the earliest response in the input layer 4. The magnitude of this response predicted response time and accuracy. Errant behavior followed errant selection. Because this response preceded top-down influences and arose in the cortical layer not targeted by top-down connections, these findings demonstrate that feedforward activation of sensory cortex can underlie attentional priority.

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