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Neural basis of visual selective attention

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Abstract Attentional modulation along the object‐recognition pathway of the cortical visual system of primates has been shown to consist of enhanced representation of the retinal input at a specific location in space, or of objects located anywhere in the visual field which possess a critical object feature. Moreover, selective attention mechanisms allow the visual system to resolve competition among multiple objects in a crowded scene in favor of the object that is relevant for the current behavior. Finally, selective attention affects the spontaneous activity of neurons as well as their visually driven responses, and it does so not only by modulating the spiking activity of individual neurons, but also by modulating the degree of coherent firing within the critical neuronal populations. WIREs Cogni Sci 2011 2 392–407 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.117 This article is categorized under: Neuroscience > Cognition

Sorting visual objects on the basis of feature information. (a) Any given sample of heterogeneous visual objects, such as sets of apples and sweet peppers in the present example, can be sorted, or classified, on the basis of any of their component features. For instance, they can be sorted on the basis of color information, while disregarding shape (type) information, as shown in the panels on top‐left and bottom‐right, or they can be sorted on the basis of shape (type) information, while disregarding color information, as shown in the panels on top‐right and bottom‐left. Therefore, actual sorting behavior must be guided by one or the other feature of the stimuli, depending on the currently relevant feature dimension. Disturbing influence from the competing feature dimension must be blocked in order to minimize potential for response conflict interference.108,109 (b) Example of neuron showing modulation of responses to a set of colored oriented bar stimuli depending on the currently relevant feature dimension. Crucially, the neuron tends to produce similar levels of firing to all selected features requiring the same behavioral response (see text for further details). Panel a, courtesy of G. Bertini and M. Veronese. (Panel b: reprinted with permission from Ref 110. Copyright 2007 Cell Press.)

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