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Farran Briggs; Attention and neuronal circuits. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):1414. doi: 10.1167/15.12.1414.
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© 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
Visual attention has a profound impact on perception, however we currently lack a neurobiological definition of attention. In other words, we lack an understanding of the cellular and circuit mechanisms underlying attentional modulation of neuronal activity in the brain. The main objective of my research is to understand how visual spatial attention alters the way in which neurons communicate with one another. Previously, my colleagues and I demonstrated that attention enhances the efficacy of signal transmission in the geniculocortical circuit. Through this work, we suggest that the mechanisms underlying attentional modulation of neuronal activity involve enhancement of signal transmission in neuronal circuits and increasing the signal-to-noise ratio of information transmitted in these circuits. Results from my lab indicate that these mechanisms can explain attentional modulations in firing rate observed in primary visual cortical neurons. Our current research focuses on understanding the rules governing attentional modulation of different functional circuits in the visual cortex. Preliminary results suggest that attention differentially regulates the activity of neuronal circuits dependent on the types of information conveyed within those circuits. Overall, our results support a mechanistic definition of attention as a process that alters the dynamics of communication in specific neuronal circuits. I believe this circuit-level understanding of how attention alters neuronal activity is required in order to develop more targeted and effective treatments for attention deficits.
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