When we search for visual objects, the features of those objects bias our attention across the visual landscape (feature-based attention). The brain uses these top-down cues to select eye movement targets (spatial selection). The frontal eye field (FEF) is a prefrontal brain region implicated in selecting eye movements and is thought to reflect feature-based attention and spatial selection. Here, we study how FEF facilitates attention and selection in complex natural scenes. We ask whether FEF neurons facilitate feature-based attention by representing search-relevant visual features or whether they are primarily involved in selecting eye movement targets in space. We show that search-relevant visual features are weakly predictive of gaze in natural scenes and additionally have no significant influence on FEF activity. Instead, FEF activity appears to primarily correlate with the direction of the upcoming eye movement. Our result demonstrates a concrete need for better models of natural scene search and suggests that FEF activity during natural scene search is explained primarily by spatial selection.
- frontal eye field
- visual search
- feature-based attention
- spatial selection
- natural scenes
- generalized linear modeling
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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