Attention alters three key properties of population neural activity – firing rate, rate variability, and shared variability between neurons. All three properties are well explained by a single canonical computation – normalization – that acts across hierarchically integrated brain systems. Combining data from rodents and nonhuman primates, we argue that cortical cholinergic modulation originating from the basal forebrain closely mimics the effects of directed attention on these three properties of population neural activity. Cholinergic modulation of the cortical microcircuit underlying normalization may represent a key biological basis for the rapid and flexible changes in population neuronal coding that are required by directed attention.
Schmitz, T. W., & Duncan, J. (2018, May 1). Normalization and the Cholinergic Microcircuit: A Unified Basis for Attention. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Elsevier Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2018.02.011