Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Keeping the Noise Down

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Keeping the Noise Down

Article excerpt

SELECTIVE ATTENTION

Mitchell et al. (2009). Spatial attention decorrelates intrinsic activity fluctuations in macaque area V4. Neuron, 63, 879.

The scientific study of visual selective attention has enjoyed a long history in experimental psychology, spanning at least the past century. Such longevity no doubt speaks to the fundamental role that such attention plays in adaptive functioning, for visual selective attention allows observers to remain focused on goal-relevant tasks in the presence of distracting stimuli. But how is efficient visual selection accomplished by the brain? One way such questions have been addressed is by measuring the attention-dependent response of single neurons to sensory stimuli. Such studies have typically shown that attention-dependent increases in sensory processing typically come about in at least two ways: first, via increases in the mean firing rates of neurons that are driven by the attended stimulus, and second, via decreases in the mean firing rates of neurons that are driven by an irrelevant stimulus. However, whereas many studies of selective attention have focused on how attention modulates a neuron's response to external forms of distraction, a more important question might be how attention modulates the internonflickernal noise that arises from neuronal response variability within the brain. …

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