To what extent does attention modulate neural activity in early visual areas? fMRI measurements of attentional modulation in primary visual cortex (V1) show large effects, while single unit recordings show much smaller ones. This discrepancy suggests that fMRI measures of attention may be inflated, perhaps by activity related to other processes. To test whether effects measured with fMRI actually reflect attentional enhancement, we used a rapid acquisition protocol to determine their timing. Subjects were presented with two stimuli on either side of fixation and were cued to attend one and ignore the other. Attended stimuli showed a greater magnitude of response in V1, but this increase was delayed, by roughly one second in time, relative to both unattended responses and response increases due to boosting stimulus contrast. These results suggest that fMRI measurements of attention may primarily depend upon other processes that take a relatively long time to feed back to V1. Our results demonstrate the importance of using the fine timing information available in the fMRI response.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank James Bisley, Mark Cohen, and Zili Liu for helpful discussions, and Ben Schulz for assistance with the behavioral experiment. This work was funded by NIH EY11862 , and for support for fMRI research at UCLA, the authors also wish to thank the Brain Mapping Medical Research Organization, Brain Mapping Support Foundation, Pierson- Lovelace Foundation, The Ahmanson Foundation, William M. and Linda R. Dietel Philanthropic Fund at the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation, Tamkin Foundation, Jennifer Jones-Simon Foundation, Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation, Robson Family, and Northstar Fund.
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