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Feature-based attention influences motion processing gain in macaque visual cortex


Changes in neural responses based on spatial attention have been demonstrated in many areas of visual cortex1,2,3,4, indicating that the neural correlate of attention is an enhanced response to stimuli at an attended location and reduced responses to stimuli elsewhere. Here we demonstrate non-spatial, feature-based attentional modulation of visual motion processing, and show that attention increases the gain of direction-selective neurons in visual cortical area MT without narrowing the direction-tuning curves. These findings place important constraints on the neural mechanisms of attention and we propose to unify the effects of spatial location, direction of motion and other features of the attended stimuli in a ‘feature similarity gain model’ of attention.

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Figure 1: Experiment 1: Effect of directing attention inside versus outside the receptive field on the directional tuning curve.
Figure 2: Experiment 2: Non-spatial effects of attention and the summing of spatial and featural attentional modulation.
Figure 3: Experiment 3: Effect of directing attention to one of two stimuli inside the receptive field.


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This work was supported by the MWF-Württemberg. J.C.M. is a fellow of the Graduiertenkolleg Neurobiologie, Tübingen.

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Treue, S., Trujillo, J. Feature-based attention influences motion processing gain in macaque visual cortex. Nature 399, 575–579 (1999).

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