A pure salience response in posterior parietal cortex

Cereb Cortex. 2011 Nov;21(11):2498-506. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhr035. Epub 2011 Mar 21.


When exploring a visual scene, some objects perceptually popout because of a difference of color, shape, or size. This bottom-up information is an important part of many models describing the allocation of visual attention. It has been hypothesized that the lateral intraparietal area (LIP) acts as a "priority map," integrating bottom-up and top-down information to guide the allocation of attention. Despite a large literature describing top-down influences in LIP, the presence of a pure salience response to a salient stimulus defined by its static features alone has not been reported. We compared LIP responses with colored salient stimuli and distractors in a passive fixation task. Many LIP neurons responded preferentially to 1 of the 2 colored stimuli, yet the mean responses to the salient stimuli were significantly higher than to distractors, independent of the features of the stimuli. These enhanced responses were significant within 75 ms, and the mean responses to salient and distractor stimuli were tightly correlated, suggesting a simple gain control. We propose that a pure salience signal rapidly appears in LIP by collating salience signals from earlier visual areas. This contributes to the creation of a priority map, which is used to guide attention and saccades.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*