Spatial attention enhances network, cellular and subthreshold responses in mouse visual cortex

Nat Commun. 2020 Jan 24;11(1):505. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-14355-4.


Internal brain states strongly modulate sensory processing during behaviour. Studies of visual processing in primates show that attention to space selectively improves behavioural and neural responses to stimuli at the attended locations. Here we develop a visual spatial task for mice that elicits behavioural improvements consistent with the effects of spatial attention, and simultaneously measure network, cellular, and subthreshold activity in primary visual cortex. During trial-by-trial behavioural improvements, local field potential (LFP) responses to stimuli detected inside the receptive field (RF) strengthen. Moreover, detection inside the RF selectively enhances excitatory and inhibitory neuron responses to task-irrelevant stimuli and suppresses noise correlations and low frequency LFP fluctuations. Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings reveal that detection inside the RF increases synaptic activity that depolarizes membrane potential responses at the behaviorally relevant location. Our study establishes that mice display fundamental signatures of visual spatial attention spanning behavioral, network, cellular, and synaptic levels, providing new insight into rapid cognitive enhancement of sensory signals in visual cortex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motivation
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Pupil / physiology
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology