Article abstract

Nature Neuroscience 9, 1156 - 1160 (2006)
Published online: 13 August 2006 | doi:10.1038/nn1748

Dynamic shifts of visual receptive fields in cortical area MT by spatial attention

Thilo Womelsdorf1,2, Katharina Anton-Erxleben2, Florian Pieper2 & Stefan Treue2

Voluntary attention is the top-down selection process that focuses cortical processing resources on the most relevant sensory information. Spatial attention—that is, selection based on stimulus position—alters neuronal responsiveness throughout primate visual cortex. It has been hypothesized that it also changes receptive field profiles by shifting their centers toward attended locations and by shrinking them around attended stimuli. Here we examined, at high resolution, receptive fields in cortical area MT of rhesus macaque monkeys when their attention was directed to different locations within and outside these receptive fields. We found a shift of receptive fields, even far from the current location of attention, accompanied by a small amount of shrinkage. Thus, already in early extrastriate cortex, receptive fields are not static entities but are highly modifiable, enabling the dynamic allocation of processing resources to attended locations and supporting enhanced perception within the focus of attention by effectively increasing the local cortical magnification.

  1. F.C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Radboud University, Kapittelweg 29, 6525 EN Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
  2. Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, German Primate Center, Kellnerweg 4, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.

Correspondence to: Thilo Womelsdorf1,2 e-mail:


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