Abstract 1. Previous results have shown that spatially directed attention enhances the stimulus-elicited responses of neurons in some areas of the brain. In the inferior temporal (IT) cortex, however, directing attention toward a stimulus mildly inhibits the responses of the neurons. Inferior temporal cortex is involved in pattern discrimination, but not spatial localization. If enhancement signifies that a neuron is participating in the function for which that part of cortex is responsible, then pattern discrimination, not spatial attention, should enhance responses of IT neurons. The influence of pattern discrimination behavior on the responses of IT neurons was therefore compared with previously reported suppressive influences of both spatial attention and the fixation point. 2. Single IT neurons were recorded from two monkeys while they performed each of five tasks. One task required the monkey to make a pattern discrimination between a bar and a square of light. In the other four tasks the same bar of light appeared, but the focus of spatial attention could differ, and the fixation point could be present or absent. Either attention to (without discrimination of) the bar stimulus or the presence of the fixation point attenuated responses slightly. These two suppressive influences produced a greater attenuation when both were present. 3. The visual conditions and motor requirements when the bar stimulus appeared in the discrimination task were identical to those of the trials in the stimulus attention task. However, one-half of the responsive neurons showed significantly stronger responses to the bar stimulus when it appeared in the discrimination task than when it appeared in the stimulus attention task. For most of these neurons, discrimination just overcame the combined effect of the two suppressive influences. For six other neurons, the response strength was significantly greater during the discrimination task than during any other task. 4. The monkeys achieved an overall correct performance rate of 90% in both the discrimination and stimulus attention tasks. To achieve this performance in the discrimination task they adopted a strategy in which they performed one trial type, bar stimulus attention trials, perfectly (100%) and the other trial type, pattern trials, relatively poorly (84% correct).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS) Copyright © 1987 the American Physiological Society
Journal of Neurophysiology – The American Physiological Society
Published: Dec 1, 1987
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