Intermodal selective attention in monkeys I: Distribution and timing of effects across visual areas

Ashesh D. Mehta, Istvan Ulbert, Charles E. Schroeder

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196 Citations (Scopus)


This study quantified the magnitude and timing of selective attention effects across areas of the macaque visual system, including the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), lower cortical areas V1 and V2, and multiple higher visual areas in the dorsal and ventral processing streams. We used one stimulus configuration and behavioral paradigm, with simultaneous recordings from different areas to allow direct comparison of the distribution and timing of attention effects across the system. Streams of interdigitated auditory and visual stimuli were presented at a high rate with an irregular interstimulus interval (mean of 4/s). Attention to visual stimuli was manipulated by requiring subjects to make discriminative behavioral responses to stimuli in one sensory modality, ignoring all stimuli in the other. The attended modality was alternated across trial blocks, and difficulty of discrimination was equated across modalities. Stimulus presentation was gated, so that no stimuli were presented unless the subject gazed at the center of the visual stimulus display. Visual stimuli were diffuse light flashes differing in intensity or color and subtending 12°centered at the point of gaze. Laminar event-related potential (ERP) and current source density (CSD) response profiles were sampled during multiple paired penetrations in multiple visual areas with linear array multicontact electrodes. Attention effects were assessed by comparing responses to specific visual stimuli when attended versus when visual stimuli were looked at the same way, but ignored. Effects were quantified by computing a modulation index (MI), a ratio of the differential CSD response produced by attention to the sum responses to attended and ignored visual stimuli. The average MI increased up levels of the lower visual pathways from none in the LGN to 0.0278 in V1 to 0.101 in V2 to 0.170 in V4. Above the V2 level, attention effects were larger in ventral stream areas (MI = 0.152) than in dorsal stream areas (MI = 0.052). Although onset latencies were shortest in dorsal stream areas, attentional modulation of the early response was small relative to the stimulus-evoked response. Higher ventral stream areas showed substantial attention effects at the earliest poststimulus time points, followed by the lower visual areas V2 and V1. In all areas, attentional modulation lagged the onset of the stimulus-evoked response, and attention effects grew over the time course of the neuronal response. The most powerful, consistent, and earliest attention effects were those found to occur in area V4, during the 100-300 ms poststimulus interval. Smaller effects occurred in V2 over the same interval, and the bulk of attention effects in V1 were later. In the accompanying paper, we describe the physiology of attention effects in V1, V2 and V4.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-358
Number of pages16
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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