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Nat Neurosci. 2006 Aug;9(8):1071-6. Epub 2006 Jul 2.

LIP responses to a popout stimulus are reduced if it is overtly ignored.

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  • 1Mahoney Center for Brain and Behavior, Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, New York 10032, USA. ai2019@columbia.edu


Bright objects capture our attention by virtue of 'popping out' from their surroundings. This correlates with strong responses in cortical areas thought to be important in attentional allocation. Previous studies have suggested that with the right mindset or training, humans can ignore popout stimuli. We studied the activity of neurons in monkey lateral intraparietal area while monkeys performed a visual search task. The monkeys were free to move their eyes, and a distractor, but never the search target, popped out. On trials in which the monkeys made a saccade directly to the search target, the popout distractor evoked a smaller response than the non-popout distractors. The intensity of the response to the popout correlated inversely with the monkeys' ability to ignore it. We suggest that this modulation corresponds to a top-down mechanism that the brain uses to adjust the parietal representation of salience.

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