Decoding seen and attended motion directions from activity in the human visual cortex

Curr Biol. 2006 Jun 6;16(11):1096-102. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2006.04.003.


Functional neuroimaging has successfully identified brain areas that show greater responses to visual motion and adapted responses to repeated motion directions. However, such methods have been thought to lack the sensitivity and spatial resolution to isolate direction-selective responses to individual motion stimuli. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and pattern classification methods to show that ensemble activity patterns in human visual cortex contain robust direction-selective information, from which it is possible to decode seen and attended motion directions. Ensemble activity in areas V1-V4 and MT+/V5 allowed us to decode which of eight possible motion directions the subject was viewing on individual stimulus blocks. Moreover, ensemble activity evoked by single motion directions could effectively predict which of two overlapping motion directions was the focus of the subject's attention and presumably dominant in perception. Our results indicate that feature-based attention can bias direction-selective population activity in multiple visual areas, including MT+/V5 and early visual areas (V1-V4), consistent with gain-modulation models of feature-based attention and theories of early attentional selection. Our approach for measuring ensemble direction selectivity may provide new opportunities to investigate relationships between attentional selection, conscious perception, and direction-selective responses in the human brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Motion Perception*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*