Attentional Modulation of Neuronal Activity Depends on Neuronal Feature Selectivity

Curr Biol. 2017 Jul 10;27(13):1878-1887.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.05.080. Epub 2017 Jun 22.


Attention exerts a powerful influence on visual perception. The impact of attention on neuronal activity manifests at early visual information processing stages and progressively increases throughout the visual cortical hierarchy. However, the neuronal mechanisms of attention are unresolved. In particular, the rules governing attentional modulation of individual neurons, whether they are facilitated by or suppressed by attention, are not known. To obtain a more granular or neuron- and circuit-level understanding of the mechanisms of attention and to directly test the feature similarity gain model in V1, we compared attentional modulation with neuronal feature selectivity across a large population of V1 neurons in alert and behaving macaque monkeys trained on an attention-demanding contrast-change detection task. We utilized emerging multi-electrode array technology to record simultaneously from V1 neurons spanning all six cortical layers so that we could characterize the laminar position and physiological response properties of diverse V1 neuronal populations. We found significant relationships between attentional modulation and neuronal position within the cortical hierarchy, neuronal physiology, and neuronal feature selectivity. Our results support the feature similarity gain model and further suggest that attentional modulation depends critically upon the match between neuronal feature selectivity and the features required for the task.

Keywords: V1; feature attention; macaque monkey; spatial attention.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Electrodes
  • Female
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception*