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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Oct 16;109(42):16778-85. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1215402109. Epub 2012 Oct 5.

Feature attention evokes task-specific pattern selectivity in V4 neurons.

Author information

  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Kavli Neuroscience Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.

Erratum in

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jan 2;110(1):384.


A hallmark of visual cortical neurons is their selectivity for stimulus pattern features, such as color, orientation, or shape. In most cases this feature selectivity is hard-wired, with selectivity manifest from the beginning of the response. Here we show that when a task requires that a monkey distinguish between patterns, V4 develops a selectivity for the sought-after pattern, which it does not manifest in a task that does not require the monkey to distinguish between patterns. When a monkey looks for a target object among an array of distractors, V4 neurons become selective for the target ∼50 ms after the visual latency independent of the impending saccade direction. However, when the monkey has to only make a saccade to the spatial location of the same objects without discriminating their pattern, V4 neurons do not distinguish the search target from the distractors. This selectivity for stimulus pattern develops roughly 40 ms after the same neurons' selectivity for basic pattern features like orientation or color. We suggest that this late-developing selectivity is related to the phenomenon of feature attention and may contribute to the mechanisms by which the brain finds the target in visual search.

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