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Converging Levels of Analysis in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Visual Attention

John Duncan
Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences
Vol. 353, No. 1373, Brain Mechanisms of Selective Perception and Action (Aug. 29, 1998), pp. 1307-1317
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/56885
Page Count: 11
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Converging Levels of Analysis in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Visual Attention
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Abstract

Experiments using behavioural, lesion, functional imaging and single neuron methods are considered in the context of a neuropsychological model of visual attention. According to this model, inputs compete for representation in multiple visually responsive brain systems, sensory and motor, cortical and subcortical. Competition is biased by advance priming of neurons responsive to current behavioural targets. Across systems competition is integrated such that the same, selected object tends to become dominant throughout. The behavioural studies reviewed concern divided attention within and between modalities. They implicate within-modality competition as one main restriction on concurrent stimulus identification. In contrast to the conventional association of lateral attentional focus with parietal lobe function, the lesion studies show attentional bias to be a widespread consequence of unilateral cortical damage. Although the clinical syndrome of unilateral neglect may indeed be associated with parietal lesions, this probably reflects an assortment of further deficits accompanying a simple attentional imbalance. The functional imaging studies show joint involvement of lateral prefrontal and occipital cortex in lateral attentional focus and competition. The single unit studies suggest how competition in several regions of extrastriate cortex is biased by advance priming of neurons responsive to current behavioural targets. Together, the concepts of competition, priming and integration allow a unified theoretical approach to findings from behavioural to single neuron levels.

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