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Activity in LIP, But not V4, Matches Performance When Attention is Spread


The enhancement of neuronal responses in many visual areas while animals perform spatial attention tasks has widely been thought to be the neural correlate of visual attention, but it is unclear whether the presence or absence of this modulation contributes to our striking inability to notice changes in change blindness examples. We asked whether neuronal responses in visual area V4 and the lateral intraparietal area (LIP) in posterior parietal cortex could explain the limited ability of subjects to attend multiple items in a display. We trained animals to perform a change detection task in which they had to compare 2 arrays of stimuli separated briefly in time and found that each animal's performance decreased as function of set-size. Neuronal discriminability in V4 was consistent across set-sizes, but decreased for higher set-sizes in LIP. The introduction of a reward bias produced attentional enhancement in V4, but this could not explain the vast improvement in performance, whereas the enhancement in LIP responses could. We suggest that behavioral set-size effects and the marked improvement in performance with focused attention may not be related to response enhancement in V4 but, instead, may occur in or on the way to LIP.

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