Linking Attention to Learning, Expectation, Competition, and Consciousness
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The concept of attention has been used in many senses, often without clarifying how or why attention works as it does. Attention, like consciousness, is often described in a disembodied way. The present article summarizes neural models and supportive data and how attention is linked to processes of learning, expectation, competition, and consciousness. A key them is that attention modulates cortical self-organization and stability. Perceptual and cognitive neocortex is organized into six main cell layers, with characteristic sub-lamina. Attention is part of unified design of bottom-up, horizontal, and top-down interactions among indentified cells in laminar cortical circuits. Neural models clarify how attention may be allocated during processes of visual perception, learning and search; auditory streaming and speech perception; movement target selection during sensory-motor control; mental imagery and fantasy; and hallucination during mental disorders, among other processes.