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J Neurosci. 2011 Jan 5;31(1):64-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3620-10.2011.

Role of prefrontal cortex in conscious visual perception.

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Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Early visual areas are required for conscious visual perception, but recent evidence suggests that parts of the frontal lobe might also play a key role. However, it remains unclear whether frontal brain areas are involved in visual perception or merely use information from visual regions to drive behavior. One such frontal cortical area, the frontal-eye field (FEF), has been shown to have fast visual responses, thought to reflect mostly low-level visual processing, and delayed responses that correlate with perceptual reports. The latter observation is consistent with the idea that FEF uses visual information from (slower) visual regions to guide behavior. Here we ask whether fast visual responses in FEF also carry information related to the perceptual state of animals. We recorded single-cell activity in two monkeys trained to report the presence or absence of a visual target under conditions that evoke the illusory disappearance of the target (motion-induced blindness). We found that fast responses in FEF strongly correlated with the perceptual report of the animal. It is unlikely that short-latency perceptually correlated activity is inherited from early visual areas, since response latencies in FEF are shorter than those of visual areas with perceptually correlated activity. These results suggest that frontal brain areas are involved in generating the contents of visual perception.

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