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Neuron. 2008 Apr 10;58(1):15-25. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.01.038.

One-dimensional dynamics of attention and decision making in LIP.

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Sloan-Swartz Center for Theoretical Neurobiology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


Where we allocate our visual spatial attention depends upon a continual competition between internally generated goals and external distractions. Recently it was shown that single neurons in the macaque lateral intraparietal area (LIP) can predict the amount of time a distractor can shift the locus of spatial attention away from a goal. We propose that this remarkable dynamical correspondence between single neurons and attention can be explained by a network model in which generically high-dimensional firing-rate vectors rapidly decay to a single mode. We find direct experimental evidence for this model, not only in the original attentional task, but also in a very different task involving perceptual decision making. These results confirm a theoretical prediction that slowly varying activity patterns are proportional to spontaneous activity, pose constraints on models of persistent activity, and suggest a network mechanism for the emergence of robust behavioral timing from heterogeneous neuronal populations.

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