Feature-Based Attention Modulates Direction-Selective Hemodynamic Activity Within Human Mt

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Abstract

Attending to the spatial location or to nonspatial features of a stimulus modulates neural activity in cortical areas that process its perceptual attributes. The feature-based attentional selection of the direction of a moving stimulus is associated with increased firing of individual neurons tuned to the direction of the movement in area V5/MT, while responses of neurons tuned to opposite directions are suppressed. However, it is not known how these multiplicatively scaled responses of individual neurons tuned to different motion-directions are integrated at the population level, in order to facilitate the processing of stimuli that match the perceptual goals. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) the present study revealed that attending to the movement direction of a dot field enhances the response in a number of areas including the human MT region (hMT) as a function of the coherence of the stimulus. Attending the opposite direction, however, lead to a suppressed response in hMT that was inversely correlated with stimulus-coherence. These findings demonstrate that the multiplicative scaling of single-neuron responses by feature-based attention results in an enhanced direction-selective population response within those cortical modules that processes the physical attributes of the attended stimuli. Our results provide strong support for the validity of the “feature similarity gain model” on the integrated population response as quantified by parametric fMRI in humans. Hum Brain Mapp, 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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