Principles of Visual Attention: Linking Mind and Brain

23 October 2012
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The neural theory of visual attention (NTVA) introduced by Bundesen, 
Habekost, and Kyllingsbæk (2005, Psychol. Rev. 112, 291) is presented. 
NTVA is a neural interpretation of Bundesen’s (1990, Psychol. Rev. 97, 523) formal theory of visual attention (TVA). In NTVA, filtering (selection of objects) changes the number of cortical neurons in which an object is represented so that this number increases with the behavioral importance of the object (reallocation of processing resources by dynamic remapping of receptive fields). Another fundamental mechanism, pigeonholing (selection of features), scales the level of activation in individual neurons coding for a particular feature. The theory accounts both for a wide range of attentional effects in human performance (reaction times and error rates) and for a wide range of effects observed in firing rates of single cells in the primate visual system. NTVA provides a mathematicalframework to unify the two fields of research—formulas bridging cognition and neurophysiology.