Report

Selective Attention from Voluntary Control of Neurons in Prefrontal Cortex

Science  24 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6037, pp. 1568-1571
DOI: 10.1126/science.1199892

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Abstract

Animals can learn to voluntarily control neuronal activity within various brain areas through operant conditioning, but the relevance of that control to cognitive functions is unknown. We found that rhesus monkeys can control the activity of neurons within the frontal eye field (FEF), an oculomotor area of the prefrontal cortex. However, operantly driven FEF activity was primarily associated with selective visual attention, and not oculomotor preparation. Attentional effects were untrained and were observed both behaviorally and neurophysiologically. Furthermore, selective attention correlated with voluntary, but not spontaneous, fluctuations in FEF activity. Our results reveal a specific association of voluntarily driven neuronal activity with “top-down” attention and suggest a basis for the use of neurofeedback training to treat disorders of attention.

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