Perceptual load affects spatial tuning of neuronal populations in human early visual cortex

Curr Biol. 2014 Jan 20;24(2):R66-R67. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.11.061.


Withdrawal of attention from a visual scene as a result of perceptual load modulates overall levels of activity in human visual cortex [1], but its effects on cortical spatial tuning properties are unknown. Here we show attentional load at fixation affects the spatial tuning of population receptive fields (pRFs) in early visual cortex (V1-3) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We found that, compared to low perceptual load, high perceptual load yielded a 'blurrier' representation of the visual field surrounding the attended location and a centrifugal 'repulsion' of pRFs. Additional data and control analyses confirmed that these effects were neither due to changes in overall activity levels nor to eye movements. These findings suggest neural 'tunnel vision' as a form of distractor suppression under high perceptual load.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Retracted Publication

MeSH terms

  • Cell Count
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*