Abstract and Keywords
Covert spatial attention prioritizes the processing of stimuli at a given peripheral location, away from the direction of gaze, and selectively enhances visual discrimination, speed of processing, contrast sensitivity, and spatial resolution at the attended location. While correlates of this type of attention, which are believed to underlie perceptual benefits, have been found in a variety of visual cortical areas, more recent observations suggest that these effects may originate from frontal and parietal areas. Evidence for a causal role in attention is especially robust for the Frontal Eye Field, an oculomotor area within the prefrontal cortex. FEF firing rates have been shown to reflect the location of voluntarily deployed covert attention in a variety of tasks, and these changes in firing rate precede those observed in extrastriate cortex. In addition, manipulation of FEF activity—whether via electrical microstimulation, pharmacologically, or operant conditioning—can produce attention-like effects on behaviour and can modulate neural signals within posterior visual areas. We review this evidence and discuss the role of the FEF in visual spatial attention.
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