Interacting roles of attention and visual salience in V4

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Attention increases the contrast gain of V4 neurons, causing them to respond to an attended stimulus as though its contrast had increased. When multiple stimuli appear within a neuron's receptive field (RF), the neuron responds primarily to the attended stimulus. This suggests that cortical cells may be "hard wired" to respond preferentially to the highest-contrast stimulus in their RF, and neural systems for attention capitalize on this mechanism by dynamically increasing the effective contrast of the stimulus that is task relevant. To test this, we varied the relative contrast of two stimuli within the recorded neurons' RFs, while the monkeys attended away to another location. Increasing the physical contrast of one stimulus caused V4 neurons to respond preferentially to that stimulus and reduced their responses to competing stimuli. When attention was directed to the lower-contrast stimulus, it partially overcame the influence of a competing, higher-contrast stimulus.




Reynolds, J. H., & Desimone, R. (2003). Interacting roles of attention and visual salience in V4. Neuron, 37(5), 853–863.

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