The Representation of Spatial Attention in Human Parietal Cortex Dynamically Modulates with Performance


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Abstract

The control and allocation of attention is an essential, ubiquitous neural process that gates our awareness of objects and events in the environment. Neural representations of the locus of spatial attention have been previously demonstrated in parietal cortex. However, the behavioral relevance of these neural representations is not known. While undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging, subjects performed a covert spatial attention task that yielded a wide range of performance values. Voxels in parietal cortex selective for attended target location also dynamically modulated, becoming more or less responsive as performance levels changed. Surprisingly, this relationship was not linear. Responses peaked at intermediate performance levels and dropped both when performance was very high and when it was very low. Such dynamic modulation may represent a mechanism for organizing neural control signals according to behavioral task demands.

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