Recent evidence has demonstrated that during visual spatial attention sampling, neural activity and behavioral performance exhibit large fluctuations. To understand the origin of these fluctuations and their functional role, here, we introduce a mechanism based on the dynamical activity pattern (attention spotlight) emerging from neural circuit models in the transition regime between different dynamical states. This attention activity pattern with rich spatiotemporal dynamics flexibly samples from different stimulus locations, explaining many key aspects of temporal fluctuations such as variable theta oscillations of visual spatial attention. Moreover, the mechanism expands our understanding of how visual attention exploits spatially complex fluctuations characterized by superdiffusive motion in space and makes experimentally testable predictions. We further illustrate that attention sampling based on such spatiotemporal fluctuations provides profound functional advantages such as adaptive switching between exploitation and exploration activities and is particularly efficient at sampling natural scenes with multiple salient objects.
|Publication status||Published - Apr 2022|
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