A1 - The attentional modualation of receptive field structures and other sensory properties of area MST of macaque visual cortex

In the first funding period we were able to demonstrate a dissociation between sensory preferences and attentional modulation in an area of primate visual cortex, by showing for the first time that feature-based attentional modulation does not affect all stimulus parameters a cell in extrastriate cortex (here area MST) is tuned for. This asymmetry between selectivities is complemented by a difference in the behavioural relevance of selectivities that are attentionally modulated and those that are not. We consider this evidence that the (not attentionally modulated) linear motion selectivity observed in MST is not ‘inherited’ from area MT but is generated ‘de novo’ in MST as part of the computation performed in MST to generate the complex spiral motion selectivity in MST.
Additionally, a reverse-correlation analysis of MST receptive fields showed complex spatial distributions of direction and speed preferences that would not show up in traditional receptive field mapping approaches.
These observations are the basis for our central objective for the second funding period: to investigate the interaction of spatial attention with MST receptive field profiles, adapting the reverse-correlation approach developed in the first funding period. This ‘attentional mapping’ is flanked by two smaller objectives: Completing our characterization of the linear and nonlinear sensory receptive field characteristics of MSTd neurons (‘sensory mapping’) and a pilot study to investigate the possibility of inhibiting the top-down modulation of MST receptive fields from the Frontal Eye Field (FEF), using optogenetic approaches (‘optogenetic pilot study’).
Our aim for the end of the second funding period is to have substantially advanced, not only our knowledge of (linear and non-linear) sensory properties of MSTd neurons, but also of how various forms of (top-down, spatial, object-based) attention reshape MSTd selectivity, mediated by inter-areal communication with the FEF.


Calapai A, Berger M, Niessing M, Heisig K, Brockhausen R, Treue S, Gail A (2017) A cage-based training, cognitive testing and enrichment system optimized for Rhesus Macaques in neuroscience research. Behavior Research Methods 49:35-45.

Wilming N, Kitzmann TC, Jutras M, Xue C, Treue S, Buffalo E, Koenig P (2017) Differential contribution of low and high-level image content to eye movements in monkeys and humans. Cerebral Cortex 27:279-293.

Xue C, Kaping D, Baloni Ray S, Krishna BS, Treue S (2017) Spatial attention reduces burstiness in macaque visual cortical area MST. Cerebral Cortex 27:83-91.

Daliri MR, Kozyrev V, Treue S (2016) Attention enhances stimulus representations in macaque visual cortex without affecting their signal-to-noise level. Nature Scientific Reports 6:27666.

Li K, Kozyrev V, Kyllingsbaek S. Treue S, Ditlevsen S, Bundesen C (2016) Neurons in primate visual cortex alternate between responses to multiple stimuli in their receptive field. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience 10:141.

Schwedhelm P, Krishna BS, Treue S (2016) An extended Normalization Model of Attention accounts for feature-based attentional enhancement of both response and coherence gain. PLoS Computational Biology, 12:e1005225.

Principal investigator

Prof. Dr. Stefan Treue
German Primate Center
Kellnerweg 4
37077 Göttingen
+49 (0)551 3851 118


Moain Esghaei, PhD

Vahid Mehrpour, PhD

Amr Maamoun

Benedict Wild

German Primate Center
Kellnerweg 4
37077 Göttingen

Former team members

Dr. Sonia Baloni
Dr. Daniel Kaping