Attention can selectively enhance neuronal responses and exclude external noise, but the neuronal computations that underlie these effects remain unknown. At the neuronal level, noise exclusion might result in altered spatial integration properties. We tested this proposal by recording neuronal activity and length tuning in neurons of the primary visual cortex of the macaque when attention was directed toward or away from stimuli presented in each neuron's classical receptive field. For cells with central-parafoveal receptive fields, attention reduced spatial integration, as demonstrated by a reduction in preferred stimulus length and in the size of the spatial summation area. Conversely, in cells that represented more peripheral locations, attention increased spatial integration by increasing the cell's summation area. This previously unknown dichotomy between central and peripheral vision could support accurate analysis of attended foveal objects and target selection for impending eye movements to peripheral objects.
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We thank P. Dayan for discussions and comments on the paper. The staff of the Comparative Biology Centre (University of Newcastle upon Tyne) provided excellent technical support. The work was supported by the BBSRC (BBS/B/09325), the Wellcome Trust (070380/Z/03/Z), and the MRC (G0100407; G78/7853).
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Roberts, M., Delicato, L., Herrero, J. et al. Attention alters spatial integration in macaque V1 in an eccentricity-dependent manner. Nat Neurosci 10, 1483–1491 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn1967
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