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J Neurosci. 2008 Apr 30;28(18):4823-35. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4499-07.2008.

The effects of visual stimulation and selective visual attention on rhythmic neuronal synchronization in macaque area V4.

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F. C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Radboud University Nijmegen, 6525 EN Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Selective attention lends relevant sensory input priority access to higher-level brain areas and ultimately to behavior. Recent studies have suggested that those neurons in visual areas that are activated by an attended stimulus engage in enhanced gamma-band (30-70 Hz) synchronization compared with neurons activated by a distracter. Such precise synchronization could enhance the postsynaptic impact of cells carrying behaviorally relevant information. Previous studies have used the local field potential (LFP) power spectrum or spike-LFP coherence (SFC) to indirectly estimate spike synchronization. Here, we directly demonstrate zero-phase gamma-band coherence among spike trains of V4 neurons. This synchronization was particularly evident during visual stimulation and enhanced by selective attention, thus confirming the pattern inferred from LFP power and SFC. We therefore investigated the time course of LFP gamma-band power and found rapid dynamics consistent with interactions of top-down spatial and feature attention with bottom-up saliency. In addition to the modulation of synchronization during visual stimulation, selective attention significantly changed the prestimulus pattern of synchronization. Attention inside the receptive field of the recorded neuronal population enhanced gamma-band synchronization and strongly reduced alpha-band (9-11 Hz) synchronization in the prestimulus period. These results lend further support for a functional role of rhythmic neuronal synchronization in attentional stimulus selection.

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