Heavy demands are placed on the brain s attentional capacity when selecting a target item in a cluttered visual scene, or when reading. It is widely accepted that such attentional selection is mediated by top-down signals from higher cortical areas to early visual areas such as the primary visual cortex (V1). Further, it has also been reported that there is considerable variation in the surface area of V1. This variation may impact on either the number or specificity of attentional feedback signals and, thereby, the efficiency of attentional mechanisms. In this study, we investigated whether individual differences between humans performing attention-demanding tasks can be related to the functional area of V1. We found that those with a larger representation in V1 of the central 12 degrees of the visual field as measured using BOLD signals from fMRI were able to perform a serial search task at a faster rate. In line with recent suggestions of the vital role of visuo-spatial attention in reading, the speed of reading showed a strong positive correlation with the speed of visual search, although it showed little correlation with the size of V1. The results support the idea that the functional size of the primary visual cortex is an important determinant of the efficiency of selective spatial attention for simple tasks, and that the attentional processing required for complex tasks like reading are to a large extent determined by other brain areas and inter-areal connections.
Verghese, A., Kolbe, S. C., Anderson, A. J., Egan, G. F., & Vidyasagar, T. R. (2014). Functional size of human visual area V1: a neural correlate of top-down attention. NeuroImage, 93(P1), 47 - 52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.02.023