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date: 18 November 2017

Abstract and Keywords

Selective attention is essential for all aspects of cognition. Using the paradigmatic case of visual spatial attention, we present a theoretical account proposing the flexible control of attention through coordinated activity across a large-scale network of brain areas. It reviews evidence supporting top-down control of visual spatial attention by a distributed network, and describes principles emerging from a network approach. Stepping beyond the paradigm of visual spatial attention, we consider attentional control mechanisms more broadly. The chapter suggests that top-down biasing mechanisms originate from multiple sources and can be of several types, carrying information about receptive-field properties such as spatial locations or features of items; but also carrying information about properties that are not easily mapped onto receptive fields, such as the meanings or timings of items. The chapter considers how selective biases can operate on multiple slates of information processing, not restricted to the immediate sensory-motor stream, but also operating within internalized, short-term and long-term memory representations. Selective attention appears to be a general property of information processing systems rather than an independent domain within our cognitive make-up.

Keywords: spatial attention, networks, top-down bias, information processing, memory

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