Mrsic-Flogel, Thomas D;
Independent response modulation of visual cortical neurons by attentional and behavioral states.
Sensory processing is influenced by cognitive and behavioral states, but how these states interact to modulate responses of individual neurons is unknown. We trained mice in a visual discrimination task wherein they attended to different locations within a hemifield while running or sitting still, enabling us to examine how visual responses are modulated by spatial attention and running behavior. We found that spatial attention improved discrimination performance and strengthened visual responses of excitatory neurons in the primary visual cortex whose receptive fields overlapped with the attended location. Although individual neurons were modulated by both spatial attention and running, the magnitudes of these influences were not correlated. While running-dependent modulation was stable across days, attentional modulation was dynamic, influencing individual neurons to different degrees after repeated changes in attentional states. Thus, despite similar effects on neural responses, spatial attention and running act independently with different dynamics, implying separable mechanisms for their implementation.
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