Attention increases sensitivity of V4 neurons

Neuron. 2000 Jun;26(3):703-14. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(00)81206-4.


When attention is directed to a location in the visual field, sensitivity to stimuli at that location is increased. At the neuronal level, this could arise either through a multiplicative increase in firing rate or through an increase in the effective strength of the stimulus. To test conflicting predictions of these alternative models, we recorded responses of V4 neurons to stimuli across a range of luminance contrasts and measured the change in response when monkeys attended to them in order to discriminate a target stimulus from nontargets. Attention caused greater increases in response at low contrast than at high contrast, consistent with an increase in effective stimulus strength. On average, attention increased the effective contrast of the attended stimulus by a factor of 1.51, an increase of 51% of its physical contrast.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*