Linking Attention to Learning, Expectation, Competition, and Consciousness
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.