Attention as a decision in information space

Trends Cogn Sci. 2010 Jun;14(6):240-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.03.001. Epub 2010 Apr 17.


Decision formation and attention are two fundamental processes through which we select, respectively, appropriate actions or sources of information. Although both functions have been studied in the oculomotor system, we lack a unified view explaining both forms of selection. We review evidence showing that parietal neurons encoding saccade motor decisions also carry signals of attention (perceptual selection) that are independent of the metrics, modality and reward of an action. We propose that attention implements a specialized form of decision based on the utility of information. Thus, oculomotor control depends on two interacting but distinct processes: attentional decisions that assign value to sources of information and motor decisions that flexibly link the selected information with action.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Eye Movements
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / cytology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*