To determine the physiological mechanisms underlying the enhancement of performance by attention, we examined how attention affects the ability of isolated neurons to discriminate orientation by investigating the reliability of responses with and without attention. Recording from 262 neurons in cortical area V4 while two rhesus macaques did a delayed match-to-sample task with oriented stimuli, we found that attention did not produce detectable changes in the variability of neuronal responses but did improve the orientation discriminability of the neurons. We also found that attention did not change the relationship between burst rate and response rate. Our results are consistent with the idea that attention selects groups of neurons for a multiplicative enhancement in response strength.
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