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Simultaneous selection by object-based attention in visual and frontal cortex

Research group Roelfsema
Publication year 2014
Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Authors Arezoo Pooresmaeili, Jasper Poort, P.R. Roelfsema

Models of visual attention hold that top-down signals from frontal cortex influence information processing in visual cortex. It is unknown whether situations exist in which visual cortex actively participates in attentional selection. To investigate this question, we simultaneously recorded neuronal activity in the frontal eye fields (FEF) and primary visual cortex (V1) during a curve-tracing task in which attention shifts are object-based. We found that accurate performance was associated with similar latencies of attentional selection in both areas and that the latency in both areas increased if the task was made more difficult. The amplitude of the attentional signals in V1 saturated early during a trial, whereas these selection signals kept increasing for a longer time in FEF, until the moment of an eye movement, as if FEF integrated attentional signals present in early visual cortex. In erroneous trials, we observed an interareal latency difference because FEF selected the wrong curve before V1 and imposed its erroneous decision onto visual cortex. The neuronal activity in visual and frontal cortices was correlated across trials, and this trial-to-trial coupling was strongest for the attended curve. These results imply that selective attention relies on reciprocal interactions within a large network of areas that includes V1 and FEF.

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