Activity in primary visual cortex predicts performance in a visual detection task

Nat Neurosci. 2000 Sep;3(9):940-5. doi: 10.1038/78856.


Visual attention can affect both neural activity and behavior in humans. To quantify possible links between the two, we measured activity in early visual cortex (V1, V2 and V3) during a challenging pattern-detection task. Activity was dominated by a large response that was independent of the presence or absence of the stimulus pattern. The measured activity quantitatively predicted the subject's pattern-detection performance: when activity was greater, the subject was more likely to correctly discern the presence or absence of the pattern. This stimulus-independent activity had several characteristics of visual attention, suggesting that attentional mechanisms modulate activity in early visual cortex, and that this attention-related activity strongly influences performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Cortex / metabolism*