What mechanisms underlie the prioritization of neural representations of visually perceived information to guide behavior? We assessed the dynamics whereby attention biases competition for representation of visual stimuli by enhancing representations of relevant information and suppressing the irrelevant. Multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) classifiers were trained to discriminate patterns of fMRI activity associated with each of three stimuli, within several predefined ROIs. Participants performed a change-detection task wherein two of three presented items flashed at 1 Hz, one to each side of central fixation. Both flashing stimuli would unpredictably change state, but participants covertly counted the number of changes only for the cued item. In the ventral occipito-temporal ROI, MVPA evidence (a proxy for representational fidelity) was dynamically enhanced for attended stimuli and suppressed for unattended stimuli, consistent with a mechanism of biased competition between stimulus representations. Frontal and parietal ROIs displayed a qualitatively distinct, more “source-like” profile, wherein MVPA evidence for only the attended stimulus could be observed above baseline levels. To assess how attentional modulation of ventral occipito-temporal representations might relate to signals originating in the frontal and/or parietal ROIs, we analyzed informational connectivity (IC), which indexes time-varying covariation between regional levels of MVPA evidence. Parietal-posterior IC was elevated during the task, but did not differ for cued versus uncued items. Frontal-posterior IC, in contrast, was sensitive to an item's priority status. Thus, although regions of frontal and parietal cortex act as sources of top–down attentional control, their precise functions likely differ.

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