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Busse, Laura ORCID: 0000-0002-6127-7754; Katzner, Steffen ORCID: 0000-0002-4424-2197; Treue, Stefan (2008): Temporal dynamics of neuronal modulation during exogenous and endogenous shifts of visual attention in macaque area MT. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 105, No. 42: pp. 16380-16385
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Dynamically shifting attention between behaviorally relevant stimuli in the environment is a key condition for successful adaptive behavior. Here, we investigated how exogenous (reflexive) and endogenous (voluntary) shifts of visual spatial attention interact to modulate activity of single neurons in extrastriate area MT. We used a double-cueing paradigm, in which the first cue instructed two macaque monkeys to covertly attend to one of three moving random dot patterns until a second cue, whose unpredictable onset exogenously captured attention, either Signaled to shift or maintain the current focus of attention. The neuronal activity revealed correlates of both exogenous and endogenous attention, which could be well distinguished by their characteristic temporal dynamics. The earliest effect was a transient interruption of the focus of endogenous attention by the onset of the second cue. The neuronal signature of this exogenous capture of attention was a short-latency decrease of responses to the stimulus attended so far. About 70 ms later, the influence of exogenous attention leveled off, which was reflected in two concurrent processes: responses to the newly cued stimulus continuously increased because of allocation of endogenous attention, while, surprisingly, there was also a gradual rebound of attentional enhancement of the previously relevant stimulus. Only after an additional 110 ms did endogenous disengagement of attention from this previously relevant stimulus become evident. These patterns of attentional modulation can be most parsimoniously explained by assuming two distinct attentional mechanisms drawing on the same capacity-limited system, with exogenous attention having a much faster time course than endogenous attention.