The representation of visual salience in monkey parietal cortex

Nature. 1998 Jan 29;391(6666):481-4. doi: 10.1038/35135.


When natural scenes are viewed, a multitude of objects that are stable in their environments are brought in and out of view by eye movements. The posterior parietal cortex is crucial for the analysis of space, visual attention and movement. Neurons in one of its subdivisions, the lateral intraparietal area (LIP), have visual responses to stimuli appearing abruptly at particular retinal locations (their receptive fields). We have tested the responses of LIP neurons to stimuli that entered their receptive field by saccades. Neurons had little or no response to stimuli brought into their receptive field by saccades, unless the stimuli were behaviourally significant. We established behavioural significance in two ways: either by making a stable stimulus task-relevant, or by taking advantage of the attentional attraction of an abruptly appearing stimulus. Our results show that under ordinary circumstances the entire visual world is only weakly represented in LIP. The visual representation in LIP is sparse, with only the most salient or behaviourally relevant objects being strongly represented.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cues
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*