Khorsand P, Moore T, Soltani A (2015). Combined contribution of feedforward and feedback inputs to bottom-up attention. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(155):1-11.

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Abstract

In order to deal with a large amount of information carried by visual inputs entering the brain at any given point in time, the brain swiftly uses the same inputs to enhance processing in one part of visual field at the expense of the others. These processes, collectively called bottom-up attentional selection, are assumed to solely rely on feedforward processing of the external inputs, as it is implied by the nomenclature. Nevertheless, evidence from recent experimental and modeling studies points to the role of feedback in bottom-up attention. Here, we review behavioral and neural evidence that feedback inputs are important for the formation of signals that could guide attentional selection based on exogenous inputs. Moreover, we review results from a modeling study elucidating mechanisms underlying the emergence of these signals in successive layers of neural populations and how they depend on feedback from higher visual areas. We use these results to interpret and discuss more recent findings that can further unravel feedforward and feedback neural mechanisms underlying bottom-up attention. We argue that while it is descriptively useful to separate feedforward and feedback processes underlying bottom-up attention, these processes cannot be mechanistically separated into two successive stages as they occur at almost the same time and affect neural activity within the same brain areas using similar neural mechanisms. Therefore, understanding the interaction and integration of feedforward and feedback inputs is crucial for better understanding of bottom-up attention.