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Neuron. 2003 Dec 18;40(6):1241-50.

Goal-related activity in V4 during free viewing visual search. Evidence for a ventral stream visual salience map.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


Natural exploration of complex visual scenes depends on saccadic eye movements toward important locations. Saccade targeting is thought to be mediated by a retinotopic map that represents the locations of salient features. In this report, we demonstrate that extrastriate ventral area V4 contains a retinotopic salience map that guides exploratory eye movements during a naturalistic free viewing visual search task. In more than half of recorded cells, visually driven activity is enhanced prior to saccades that move the fovea toward the location previously occupied by a neuron's spatial receptive field. This correlation suggests that bottom-up processing in V4 influences the oculomotor planning process. Half of the neurons also exhibit top-down modulation of visual responses that depends on search target identity but not visual stimulation. Convergence of bottom-up and top-down processing streams in area V4 results in an adaptive, dynamic map of salience that guides oculomotor planning during natural vision.

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