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Theta Rhythmic Neuronal Activity and Reaction Times Arising from Cortical Receptive Field Interactions during Distributed Attention

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ricardo Kienitz, Professor Michael Schmid



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2018 The Author(s) Growing evidence suggests that distributed spatial attention may invoke theta (3–9 Hz) rhythmic sampling processes. The neuronal basis of such attentional sampling is, however, not fully understood. Here we show using array recordings in visual cortical area V4 of two awake macaques that presenting separate visual stimuli to the excitatory center and suppressive surround of neuronal receptive fields (RFs) elicits rhythmic multi-unit activity (MUA) at 3–6 Hz. This neuronal rhythm did not depend on small fixational eye movements. In the context of a distributed spatial attention task, during which the monkeys detected a spatially and temporally uncertain target, reaction times (RTs) exhibited similar rhythmic fluctuations. RTs were fast or slow depending on the target occurrence during high or low MUA, resulting in rhythmic MUA-RT cross-correlations at theta frequencies. These findings show that theta rhythmic neuronal activity can arise from competitive RF interactions and that this rhythm may result in rhythmic RTs potentially subserving attentional sampling. Kienitz et al. show that receptive field interactions induce theta rhythmic neuronal activity in visual area V4 that is independent of eye movements. Under distributed attention, periodic reaction times were locked to the neuronal rhythm. Rhythmic modulation of neuronal sensitivity could thus explain attentional dynamics during visual competition.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kienitz R, Schmiedt JT, Shapcott KA, Kouroupaki K, Saunders RC, Schmid MC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Current Biology

Year: 2018

Volume: 28

Issue: 15

Pages: 2377-2387.e5

Print publication date: 06/08/2018

Online publication date: 12/07/2018

Acceptance date: 30/05/2018

Date deposited: 16/07/2018

ISSN (print): 0960-9822

ISSN (electronic): 1879-0445

Publisher: Cell Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.086


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