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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 02 December 2013 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00784

The functional anatomy of attention: a DCM study

  • The Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK

Recent formulations of attention—in terms of predictive coding—associate attentional gain with the expected precision of sensory information. Formal models of the Posner paradigm suggest that validity effects can be explained in a principled (Bayes optimal) fashion in terms of a cue-dependent setting of precision or gain on the sensory channels reporting anticipated target locations, which is updated selectively by invalid targets. This normative model is equipped with a biologically plausible process theory in the form of predictive coding, where precision is encoded by the gain of superficial pyramidal cells reporting prediction error. We used dynamic causal modeling to assess the evidence in magnetoencephalographic responses for cue-dependent and top-down updating of superficial pyramidal cell gain. Bayesian model comparison suggested that it is almost certain that differences in superficial pyramidal cells gain—and its top-down modulation—contribute to observed responses; and we could be more than 80% certain that anticipatory effects on post-synaptic gain are limited to visual (extrastriate) sources. These empirical results speak to the role of attention in optimizing perceptual inference and its formulation in terms of predictive coding.

Keywords: attention, active inference, predictive coding, precision, Posner, cortical gain control

Citation: Brown HR and Friston KJ (2013) The functional anatomy of attention: a DCM study. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:784. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00784

Received: 17 June 2013; Accepted: 29 October 2013;
Published online: 02 December 2013.

Edited by:

Joy Geng, University of California Davis, USA

Reviewed by:

Emiliano Macaluso, Fondazione Santa Lucia, Italy
Christian Ruff, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Durk Talsma, UGent, Belgium

Copyright © 2013 Brown and Friston. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Harriet R. Brown, Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, 12 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3BG, UK e-mail: harriet.brown.09@ucl.ac.uk