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Nat Neurosci. 1999 Apr;2(4):370-4.

A physiological correlate of the 'spotlight' of visual attention.

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  • 1Department of Cellular Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 53226, USA.


Here we identify a neural correlate of the ability to precisely direct visual attention to locations other than the center of gaze. Human subjects performed a task requiring shifts of visual attention (but not of gaze) from one location to the next within a dense array of targets and distracters while functional MRI was used to map corresponding displacements of neural activation within visual cortex. The cortical topography of the purely attention-driven activity precisely matched the topography of activity evoked by the cued targets when presented in isolation. Such retinotopic mapping of attention-related activation was found in primary visual cortex, as well as in dorsomedial and ventral occipital visual areas previously implicated in processing the attended target features. These results identify a physiological basis for the effects of spatially directed visual attention.

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