Dynamics of Active Sensing and perceptual selection

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2010 Apr;20(2):172-6. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2010.02.010. Epub 2010 Mar 20.


Sensory processing is often regarded as a passive process in which biological receptors like photoreceptors and mechanoreceptors transduce physical energy into a neural code. Recent findings, however, suggest that: first, most sensory processing is active, and largely determined by motor/attentional sampling routines; second, owing to rhythmicity in the motor routine, as well as to its entrainment of ambient rhythms in sensory regions, sensory inflow tends to be rhythmic; third, attentional manipulation of rhythms in sensory pathways is instrumental to perceptual selection. These observations outline the essentials of an Active Sensing paradigm, and argue for increased emphasis on the study of sensory processes as specific to the dynamic motor/attentional context in which inputs are acquired.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Periodicity
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology