Philosophy, Psychology and Neuroscience

Top-down modulation, cognitive penetration and visual attention

While it is well established that there are massive feedback connections in the brain, and hence the circuitry required for top-down modulation on vision, there remains a debate about whether there is cognitive penetration of vision. This talk will discuss the ideas of top-down modulation and cognitive penetration in the context of shifts of visual attention. I begin with an account of what attention is, given some controversy regarding the possibility of even defining it. After discussing conceptual issues about cognitive penetration, I argue that attention provides the best supported example of cognitive penetration: intentions fix attention. This leads to the question whether all top-down modulation counts as cognitive penetration or whether there are other forms of modulation. At the core will be the idea of computational models as explanatory models that can link psychological and neural explanations.