Dynamic shifts of visual receptive fields in cortical area MT by spatial attention

Nat Neurosci. 2006 Sep;9(9):1156-60. doi: 10.1038/nn1748. Epub 2006 Aug 13.


Voluntary attention is the top-down selection process that focuses cortical processing resources on the most relevant sensory information. Spatial attention--that is, selection based on stimulus position--alters neuronal responsiveness throughout primate visual cortex. It has been hypothesized that it also changes receptive field profiles by shifting their centers toward attended locations and by shrinking them around attended stimuli. Here we examined, at high resolution, receptive fields in cortical area MT of rhesus macaque monkeys when their attention was directed to different locations within and outside these receptive fields. We found a shift of receptive fields, even far from the current location of attention, accompanied by a small amount of shrinkage. Thus, already in early extrastriate cortex, receptive fields are not static entities but are highly modifiable, enabling the dynamic allocation of processing resources to attended locations and supporting enhanced perception within the focus of attention by effectively increasing the local cortical magnification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*