Dendritic Compartmentalization Could Underlie Competition and Attentional Biasing of Simultaneous Visual Stimuli

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 13 (NIPS 2000)

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Kevin Archie, Bartlett Mel


Neurons in area V4 have relatively large receptive fields (RFs), so multi(cid:173) ple visual features are simultaneously "seen" by these cells. Recordings from single V 4 neurons suggest that simultaneously presented stimuli compete to set the output firing rate, and that attention acts to isolate individual features by biasing the competition in favor of the attended object. We propose that both stimulus competition and attentional bias(cid:173) ing arise from the spatial segregation of afferent synapses onto different regions of the excitable dendritic tree of V 4 neurons. The pattern of feed(cid:173) forward, stimulus-driven inputs follows from a Hebbian rule: excitatory afferents with similar RFs tend to group together on the dendritic tree, avoiding randomly located inhibitory inputs with similar RFs. The same principle guides the formation of inputs that mediate attentional mod(cid:173) ulation. Using both biophysically detailed compartmental models and simplified models of computation in single neurons, we demonstrate that such an architecture could account for the response properties and atten(cid:173) tional modulation of V 4 neurons. Our results suggest an important role for nonlinear dendritic conductances in extrastriate cortical processing.