PublicatiesInversion of pop-out for a distracting feature dimension in monkey visual cortex
During visual search, it is important to reduce the interference of distracting objects in the scene. The neuronal responses elicited by the search target stimulus are typically enhanced. However, it is equally important to suppress the representations of distracting stimuli, especially if they are salient and capture attention. We trained monkeys to make an eye movement to a unique "pop-out" shape stimulus among an array of distracting stimuli. One of these distractors had a salient color that varied across trials and differed from the color of the other stimuli, causing it to also pop-out. The monkeys were able to select the pop-out shape target with high accuracy and actively avoided the pop-out color distractor. This behavioral pattern was reflected in the activity of neurons in area V4. Responses to the shape targets were enhanced, while the activity evoked by the pop-out color distractor was only briefly enhanced, directly followed by a sustained period of pronounced suppression. These behavioral and neuronal results demonstrate a cortical selection mechanism that rapidly inverts a pop-out signal to "pop-in" for an entire feature dimension thereby facilitating goal-directed visual search in the presence of salient distractors.