Consciousness and how it got to be that way

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Competition Mechanism for Attention

A nucleus in the midbrain of owls is found by Asadollahi et al to encode salience (i.e., relative strength) of visual and auditory stimuli. This is strong support for the existence of the previously theorized salience map and is a big step in the study of attention. Nature paper here.

Future questions: how is remote sense data (visual-auditory) integrated with contact data (touch, pain and taste)? How are attention conflicts resolved; that is, when an agent voluntarily wants to focus on a stimulus that is weaker and no more irregular than those around it? In the case of humans trying to focus on one visual stimulus known to be important despite sensory distraction, might we predict inhibitory projections from the temporal cortex to this nucleus or to its projections?

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