Report

Selective Attention from Voluntary Control of Neurons in Prefrontal Cortex

+ See all authors and affiliations

Science  26 May 2011:
1199892
DOI: 10.1126/science.1199892

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 show that monkeys can control the activity of neurons within the frontal eye field (FEF), an oculomotor area of 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.