Feature-based attentional modulations in the absence of direct visual stimulation

Neuron. 2007 Jul 19;55(2):301-12. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2007.06.015.


When faced with a crowded visual scene, observers must selectively attend to behaviorally relevant objects to avoid sensory overload. Often this selection process is guided by prior knowledge of a target-defining feature (e.g., the color red when looking for an apple), which enhances the firing rate of visual neurons that are selective for the attended feature. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and a pattern classification algorithm to predict the attentional state of human observers as they monitored a visual feature (one of two directions of motion). We find that feature-specific attention effects spread across the visual field-even to regions of the scene that do not contain a stimulus. This spread of feature-based attention to empty regions of space may facilitate the perception of behaviorally relevant stimuli by increasing sensitivity to attended features at all locations in the visual field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Female
  • Field Dependence-Independence*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Perceptual Masking / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*