1. The effects of selective attention were studied in SI and SII cortex of a rhesus monkey trained to perform two tasks, a tactile discrimination task and a visual detection task. In the tactile task, a letter was displayed on a video screen in front of the monkey and the animal was rewarded for responding when the raised letter (6.0 mm letter height) scanning across its finger (15 mm/s) matched the letter on the screen. In the visual task, three illuminated squares were displayed on the screen, and the animal was rewarded for detecting when one of the squares dimmed. The neural responses evoked by the raised letters were recorded continuously while the animal's focus of attention was switched back and forth between the two tasks. 2. Significant differences between the discharge rates evoked by raised letters in the two tasks were observed in ~50% of neurons in SI cortex and 80% of neurons in SII cortex. The effects in SII cortex were divided between increased (58%) and decreased (22%) rates. In SI cortex only increased rates were observed. 3. The attentional effects were expressed not only as changes in overall neuronal activity but also as modifications of the form of the responses evoked by the letters. 4. Whether attentional effects were observed depended upon the behavioral relevance of individual letters. During brief periods in the tactile task when a behavioral response could not yield a reward (time- out and reward periods) the neuronal responses were not significantly different from the responses evoked by the same letters during the visual task. 5. The monkey recognized 6.0-mm letters with 85% correct responses, demonstrating that monkeys and humans have similar capacities for tactile spatial discrimination.
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