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Cereb Cortex. 2009 Oct;19(10):2466-78. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhp002. Epub 2009 Feb 11.

Attention reshapes center-surround receptive field structure in macaque cortical area MT.

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Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany.


Directing spatial attention to a location inside the classical receptive field (cRF) of a neuron in macaque medial temporal area (MT) shifts the center of the cRF toward the attended location. Here we investigate the influence of spatial attention on the profile of the inhibitory surround present in many MT neurons. Two monkeys attended to the fixation point or to 1 of 2 random dot patterns (RDPs) placed inside or next to the cRF, whereas a third RDP (the probe) was briefly presented in quick succession across the cRF and surround. The probe presentation responses were used to compute a map of the excitatory receptive field and its inhibitory surround. Attention systematically reshapes the receptive field profile, independently shifting both center and surround toward the attended location. Furthermore, cRF size is changed as a function of relative distance to the attentional focus: attention inside the cRF shrinks it, whereas directing attention next to the cRF expands it. In addition, we find systematic changes in surround inhibition and cRF amplitude. This nonmultiplicative push-pull modulation of the receptive field's center-surround structure optimizes processing at and near the attentional focus to strengthen the representation of the attended stimulus while reducing influences from distractors.

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