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Trends Cogn Sci. 2011 Dec;15(12):585-91. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2011.10.006. Epub 2011 Nov 8.

The role of neuromodulators in selective attention.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Several classes of neurotransmitters exert modulatory effects on a broad and diverse population of neurons throughout the brain. Some of these neuromodulators, especially acetylcholine and dopamine, have long been implicated in the neural control of selective attention. We review recent evidence and evolving ideas about the importance of these neuromodulatory systems in attention, particularly visual selective attention. We conclude that, although our understanding of their role in the neural circuitry of selective attention remains rudimentary, recent research has begun to suggest unique contributions of neuromodulators to different forms of attention, such as bottom-up and top-down attention.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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