Attentional filtering of visual information by neuronal ensembles in the primate lateral prefrontal cortex

Neuron. 2015 Jan 7;85(1):202-215. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.11.021. Epub 2014 Dec 11.


The activity of neurons in the primate lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) is strongly modulated by visual attention. Such a modulation has mostly been documented by averaging the activity of independently recorded neurons over repeated experimental trials. However, in realistic settings, ensembles of simultaneously active LPFC neurons must generate attentional signals on a single-trial basis, despite the individual and correlated variability of neuronal responses. Whether, under these circumstances, the LPFC can reliably generate attentional signals is unclear. Here, we show that the simultaneous activity of neuronal ensembles in the primate LPFC can be reliably decoded to predict the allocation of attention on a single-trial basis. Decoding was sensitive to the noise correlation structure of the ensembles. Additionally, it was resilient to distractors, predictive of behavior, and stable over weeks. Thus, LPFC neuronal ensemble activity can reliably encode attention within behavioral time frames, despite the noisy and correlated nature of neuronal activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Eye Movement Measurements
  • Macaca
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Saccades
  • Signal Detection, Psychological / physiology*
  • Signal-To-Noise Ratio
  • Visual Perception / physiology*