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J Neurosci. 2010 Mar 3;30(9):3227-38. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4600-09.2010.

Cooperation and competition among frontal eye field neurons during visual target selection.

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Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt Vision Research Center, Center for Integrative and Cognitive Neuroscience, Vanderbilt Brain Institute, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37240, USA.


The role of spike rate versus timing codes in visual target selection is unclear. We simultaneously recorded activity from multiple frontal eye field neurons and asked whether they interacted to select targets from distractors during visual search. When both neurons in a pair selected the target and had overlapping receptive fields (RFs), they cooperated more than when one or neither neuron in the pair selected the target, measured by positive spike timing correlations using joint peristimulus time histogram analysis. The amount of cooperation depended on the location of the search target: it was higher when the target was inside both neurons' RFs than when it was inside one RF but not the other, or outside both RFs. Elevated spike timing coincidences occurred at the time of attentional selection of the target as measured by average modulation of discharge rates. We observed competition among neurons with spatially non-overlapping RFs, measured by negative spike timing correlations. Thus, we provide evidence for dynamic and task-dependent cooperation and competition among frontal eye field neurons during visual target selection.

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