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Long-range and local circuits for top-down modulation of visual cortex processing

Science  08 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6197, pp. 660-665
DOI: 10.1126/science.1254126

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We often focus on a particular item out of a thousand objects in a visual scene. This ability is called selective attention. Selective attention enhances the responses of sensory nerve cells to whatever is being observed and dampens responses to any distractions. Zhang et al. identified a region of the mouse forebrain that modulates responses in the visual cortex. This modulation improved the mouse's performance in a visual task.

Science, this issue p. 660

Abstract

Top-down modulation of sensory processing allows the animal to select inputs most relevant to current tasks. We found that the cingulate (Cg) region of the mouse frontal cortex powerfully influences sensory processing in the primary visual cortex (V1) through long-range projections that activate local γ-aminobutyric acid–ergic (GABAergic) circuits. Optogenetic activation of Cg neurons enhanced V1 neuron responses and improved visual discrimination. Focal activation of Cg axons in V1 caused a response increase at the activation site but a decrease at nearby locations (center-surround modulation). Whereas somatostatin-positive GABAergic interneurons contributed preferentially to surround suppression, vasoactive intestinal peptide-positive interneurons were crucial for center facilitation. Long-range corticocortical projections thus act through local microcircuits to exert spatially specific top-down modulation of sensory processing.

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