During the preparation of saccadic eye movements, visual attention is confined to the target of intended fixation and there is a corresponding diminution of visual sensitivity at nontarget locations. Neurons within the macaque visual cortex exhibit correlates of these perceptual changes, such as in area V4, where neuronal responses are enhanced during the preparation of saccades to stimuli within the receptive field (RF), and responses are suppressed during the preparation of saccades to other locations. Both the perceptual and neurophysiological effects suggest that the sensitivity of visual cortical neurons to input is dynamic during saccade preparation. We probed the contrast sensitivity of area V4 neurons to nontarget stimuli at varying times during the preparation of saccades to locations outside of the neuron's receptive field. We found that the contrast sensitivity of many neurons is profoundly altered within 50 ms of saccade onset. The luminance or color contrast sensitivity of individual V4 neurons could increase, decrease, or remain unchanged before saccade onset. For luminance contrast sensitivity, decreases in sensitivity were more frequent and larger in magnitude, resulting in an overall decrement in sensitivity across the population. For color contrast, the effects were smaller and more heterogeneous, resulting in little or no overall change in sensitivity across the population. Our results demonstrate the dynamic influence that saccade preparation has on the sensitivity of visual cortical neurons and suggest a basis for the changes in perception known to occur during saccade preparation.
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