Visual responses in FEF, unlike V1, primarily reflect when the visual context renders a receptive field salient

Wilsaan Joiner, James Cavanaugh, Robert H. Wurtz, Bruce G. Cumming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


When light falls within a neuronal visual receptive field (RF) the resulting activity is referred to as the visual response. Recent work suggests this activity is in response to both the visual stimulation and the abrupt appearance, or salience, of the presentation. Here we present a novel method for distinguishing the two, based on the timing of random and nonrandom presentations. We examined these contributions in frontal eye field (FEF; N = 51) and as a comparison, an early stage in the primary visual cortex (V1; N = 15) of male monkeys (Macaca mulatta). An array of identical stimuli was presented within and outside the neuronal RF while we manipulated salience by varying the time between stimulus presentations. We hypothesized that the rapid presentation would reduce salience (the sudden appearance within the visual field) of a stimulus at any one location, and thus decrease responses driven by salience in the RF. We found that when the interstimulus interval decreased from 500 to 16 ms there was an approximate 79% reduction in the FEF response compared with an estimated 17% decrease in V1. This reduction in FEF response for rapid presentation was evident even when the random sequence preceding a stimulus did not stimulate the RF for 500 ms. The time course of these response changes in FEF suggest that salience is represented much earlier (<100 ms following stimulus onset) than previously estimated. Our results suggest that the contribution of salience dominates at higher levels of the visual system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9871-9879
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 11 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Context
  • FEF
  • Receptive field
  • Salience
  • V1
  • Visual response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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