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Exp Brain Res. 1991;83(2):340-8.

Task difficulty: ignoring, attending to, and discriminating a visual stimulus yield progressively more activity in inferior temporal neurons.

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Laboratory of Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


To study the influence of task difficulty on the stimulus-elicited responses of inferior temporal (IT) neurons, the stimulus-elicited responses of 64 neurons were recorded from IT cortex of three rhesus monkeys while they performed three behavioral tasks-an irrelevant-stimulus task, a stimulus detection task, and a stimulus discrimination task. The monkey could ignore the stimulus entirely in the irrelevant-stimulus task, was required only to detect stimulus dimming in the stimulus detection task, and was required to attend to specific properties of the stimulus in the discrimination task. The excitatory responses in the discrimination and stimulus detection tasks were larger than those in the irrelevant-stimulus task (61% and 33%, respectively, of the individual differences were significant), and excitatory responses in the discrimination task were larger than those in the detection task (49% of the individual differences reached significance). Twenty percent of the stimulus presentations elicited inhibitory responses that were followed by off-responses. The off-responses were modulated by the tasks in the same order as the excitatory on-responses. Assuming that the off-response strengths indicate the depth of the stimulus-induced inhibition, these results suggest that inhibitory responses were influenced across these tasks in a manner similar to the excitatory responses. When the neuronal responses were related to the difficulties of these tasks, both the response strength and errors were seen to be least during the irrelevant-stimulus task and greatest during the discrimination task. This relationship suggests that the visual responsiveness of IT neurons is related to the degree of attention the animal pays to the stimulus.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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