Functional MRI reveals spatially specific attentional modulation in human primary visual cortex

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Feb 16;96(4):1663-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.96.4.1663.


Selective visual attention can strongly influence perceptual processing, even for apparently low-level visual stimuli. Although it is largely accepted that attention modulates neural activity in extrastriate visual cortex, the extent to which attention operates in the first cortical stage, striate visual cortex (area V1), remains controversial. Here, functional MRI was used at high field strength (3 T) to study humans during attentionally demanding visual discriminations. Similar, robust attentional modulations were observed in both striate and extrastriate cortical areas. Functional mapping of cortical retinotopy demonstrates that attentional modulations were spatially specific, enhancing responses to attended stimuli and suppressing responses when attention was directed elsewhere. The spatial pattern of modulation reveals a complex attentional window that is consistent with object-based attention but is inconsistent with a simple attentional spotlight. These data suggest that neural processing in V1 is not governed simply by sensory stimulation, but, like extrastriate regions, V1 can be strongly and specifically influenced by attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Eye Movements
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Motion Perception
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception