Visual attention modulates several aspects of neural coding. There is an increase in firing rate and changes in temporal dynamics: a reduction of neural variance and noise correlation as well as changes in oscillatory synchronization. The authors used glutamatergic receptor activation, combined with neurophysiological recording to show that the NMDA receptor is responsible for attention -related changes in neural temporal dynamics but not for increases in firing rate. Thus, different neurophysiological mechanisms that underlie attention can be dissociated at the receptor level. This supports the hypothesis that attention is mediated in part by the temporal dynamics of neural activity, not merely changes in the firing rate of neurons, and that the changes temporal dynamics are not simply a byproduct of changes in firing rate.
Herrero et al (2013) Neuron
For a further discussion of the role of temporal dynamics in attention see:
Miller, E.K. and Buschman, T.J. (2013) Cortical circuits for the control of attention. Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 23:216–222 View PDF »
Buschman, T.J. and Miller, E.K. (2007) Top-down versus bottom-up control of attention in the prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices. Science. 315: 1860-1862 . View PDF »
Buschman, T.J. and Miller, E.K. (2009) Serial, covert, shifts of attention during visual search are reflected by the frontal eye fields and correlated with population oscillations. Neuron, 63: 386-396. View PDF »
About the Author
The Miller Lab uses experimental and theoretical approaches to study the neural basis of the high-level cognitive functions that underlie complex goal-directed behavior. ekmillerlab.mit.edu