Receptive field size-dependent attention effects in simultaneously presented stimulus displays

M. Bles*, J.V. Schwarzbach, P.H.M. de Weerd, R.W. Goebel, B.M. Schmitt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Neurophysiological studies in monkeys show that multiple stimuli presented within the receptive field of a neuron are not processed independently but rather act in a mutually suppressive way. Recently, such suppressive interactions have also been reported in human neuroimaging studies. This is seen as evidence that stimuli compete for neural representation. According to the 'biased competition' approach, attention can bias this competition in favor of the attended stimulus, relieving it of the suppressive influences of the distracters. In this paper, we report data that support these findings. Specifically, the effect of attention on stimuli with different spatial separations was investigated more thoroughly. The biased competition approach would predict that, for a given spatial separation and eccentricity, the difference between attended and unattended displays depends on the receptive field size of an area. In a blocked fMRI experiment, participants viewed four simultaneously presented, colorful pictures under different attention conditions (attended and unattended). Stimuli were separated either 2 degrees, 4 degrees or 7 degrees. In line with previous experiments, we found that the effect of attention correlated with the estimated receptive field size of an area. In areas V1, V2 and VP, where estimated receptive field sizes are small, no significant attention effects were found in any of the spatial separation conditions. In V4, there was a significant difference between attended and unattended conditions for the 2 degrees and 4 degrees spatial separations, but not for 7 degrees. Finally in area TEO, significant differences between attended and unattended conditions were observed for all spatial separations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506-511
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006

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