Changes in perceptual sensitivity related to spatial cues depends on subcortical activity [Neuroscience]
Spatial cues allow animals to selectively attend to relevant visual stimuli while ignoring distracters. This process depends on a distributed neuronal network, and an important current challenge is to understand the functional contributions made by individual brain regions within this network and how these contributions interact. Recent findings point to a possible anatomical segregation, with cortical and subcortical brain regions contributing to different functional components of selective attention. Cortical areas, especially visual cortex, may be responsible for implementing changes in perceptual sensitivity by changing the signal-to-noise ratio, whereas other regions, such as the superior colliculus, may be involved in processes that influence selection between competing stimuli without regulating perceptual sensitivity. Such a segregation of function would predict that when activity in the superior colliculus is suppressed by reversible inactivation, animals should still show changes in perceptual sensitivity mediated by the intact cortical circuits. Contrary to this prediction, here we report that inactivation of the primate superior colliculus eliminates the changes in perceptual sensitivity made possible by spatial cues. These findings demonstrate changes in perceptual sensitivity depend not only on neuronal activity in cortex but also require interaction with signals from the superior colliculus.
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