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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2013 Nov;106:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2013.06.007. Epub 2013 Jun 19.

Set and setting: how behavioral state regulates sensory function and plasticity.

Author information

  • Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan, USA. Electronic address: saton@umich.edu.


Recently developed neuroimaging and electrophysiological techniques are allowing us to answer fundamental questions about how behavioral states regulate our perception of the external environment. Studies using these techniques have yielded surprising insights into how sensory processing is affected at the earliest stages by attention and motivation, and how new sensory information received during wakefulness (e.g., during learning) continues to affect sensory brain circuits (leading to plastic changes) during subsequent sleep. This review aims to describe how brain states affect sensory response properties among neurons in primary and secondary sensory cortices, and how this relates to psychophysical detection thresholds and performance on sensory discrimination tasks. This is not intended to serve as a comprehensive overview of all brain states, or all sensory systems, but instead as an illustrative description of how three specific state variables (attention, motivation, and vigilance [i.e., sleep vs. wakefulness]) affect sensory systems in which they have been best studied.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Acetylcholine; Auditory system; Cortex; Discrimination; Dopamine; Neural circuits; Neural network; Neuromodulation; Norepinephrine; Psychophysics; Sensorimotor system; Sleep; Somatosensory system; Synaptic plasticity; Visual system

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