Frontal eye field activity enhances object identification during covert visual search

Ilya E. Monosov, Kirk G. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


We investigated the link between neuronal activity in the frontal eye field (FEF) and the enhancement of visual processing associated with covert spatial attention in the absence of eye movements. We correlated activity recorded in the FEF of monkeys manually reporting the identity of a visual search target to performance accuracy and reaction time. Monkeys were cued to the most probable target location with a cue array containing a popout color singleton. Neurons exhibited spatially selective responses for the popout cue stimulus and for the target of the search array. The magnitude of activity related to the location of the cue prior to the presentation of the search array was correlated with trends in behavioral performance across valid, invalid, and neutral cue trial conditions. However, the speed and accuracy of the behavioral report on individual trials were predicted by the magnitude of spatial selectivity related to the target to be identified, not for the spatial cue. A minimum level of selectivity was necessary for target detection and a higher level for target identification. Muscimol inactivation of FEF produced spatially selective perceptual deficits in the covert search task that were correlated with the effectiveness of the inactivation and were strongest on invalid cue trials that require an endogenous attention shift. These results demonstrate a strong functional link between FEF activity and covert spatial attention and suggest that spatial signals from FEF directly influence visual processing during the time that a stimulus to be identified is being processed by the visual system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3656-3672
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2009


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