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Nat Commun. 2018 Oct 22;9(1):4382. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06754-5.

Distinct population codes for attention in the absence and presence of visual stimulation.

Snyder AC1,2,3, Yu BM1,3,4, Smith MA5,6,7.

Author information

1
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, 15289, PA, USA.
2
Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, 15213, PA, USA.
3
Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, 15260, PA, USA.
4
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, 15289, PA, USA.
5
Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, 15213, PA, USA. matt@smithlab.net.
6
Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, 15260, PA, USA. matt@smithlab.net.
7
Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, 15213, PA, USA. matt@smithlab.net.

Abstract

Visual neurons respond more vigorously to an attended stimulus than an unattended one. How the brain prepares for response gain in anticipation of that stimulus is not well understood. One prominent proposal is that anticipation is characterized by gain-like modulations of spontaneous activity similar to gains in stimulus responses. Here we test an alternative idea: anticipation is characterized by a mixture of both increases and decreases of spontaneous firing rates. Such a strategy would be adaptive as it supports a simple linear scheme for disentangling internal, modulatory signals from external, sensory inputs. We recorded populations of V4 neurons in monkeys performing an attention task, and found that attention states are signaled by different mixtures of neurons across the population in the presence or absence of a stimulus. Our findings support a move from a stimulation-invariant account of anticipation towards a richer view of attentional modulation in a diverse neuronal population.

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