Article abstract

Nature Neuroscience 10, 1492 - 1499 (2007)
Published online: 7 October 2007 | doi:10.1038/nn1989

Figure-ground mechanisms provide structure for selective attention

Fangtu T Qiu1, Tadashi Sugihara1 & Rüdiger von der Heydt1

Attention depends on figure-ground organization: figures draw attention, whereas shapes of the ground tend to be ignored. Recent research has revealed mechanisms for figure-ground organization in the visual cortex, but how these mechanisms relate to the attention process remains unclear. Here we show that the influences of figure-ground organization and volitional (top-down) attention converge in single neurons of area V2 in Macaca mulatta. Although we found assignment of border ownership for attended and for ignored figures, attentional modulation was stronger when the attended figure was located on the neuron's preferred side of border ownership. When the border between two overlapping figures was placed in the receptive field, responses depended on the side of attention, and enhancement was generally found on the neuron's preferred side of border ownership. This correlation suggests that the neural network that creates figure-ground organization also provides the interface for the top-down selection process.

  1. Krieger Mind/Brain Institute and Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA.

Correspondence to: Rüdiger von der Heydt1 e-mail:


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