The brain monitors simultaneous sensory input by “time division multiplexing”, a rhythmic juggling of the two streams of information.
Evidence for time division multiplexing of multiple simultaneous items in a sensory coding bottleneck
Valeria C Caruso, Jeffrey T Mohl, Chris Glynn, JungAh Lee, Shawn M Willett, Azeem Zaman, Rolando Estrada, Surya Tokdar, Jennifer M Groh
Still think that single neurons with specific functions rule the brain? Let us persuade you otherwise. We argue that cognitive control stems from dynamic, context-dependent population coding.
Stokes, M., Buschman, T.J., and Miller, E.K. (2017) Dynamic coding for flexible cognitive control. The Wiley Handbook of Cognitive Control, The Wiley Handbook of Cognitive Control, Edited by Tobias Egner, John Wiley & Sons, 2017(Chichester, West Sussex, UK). View PDF
New Miller Lab paper:
Jia, N., Brincat, S.L., Salazar-Gomez, A., Panko, M., Guenther, F. and Miller, E.K. (2017) Decoding of intended saccade direction in an oculomotor brain-computer interface. Journal of Neural Engineering, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1088/1741-2552/aa5a3e
Objective. To date, invasive brain-computer interface (BCI) research has largely focused on replacing lost limb functions using signals from of hand/arm areas of motor cortex. However, the oculomotor system may be better suited to BCI applications involving rapid serial selection from spatial targets, such as choosing from a set of possible words displayed on a computer screen in an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) application. Here we aimed to demonstrate the feasibility of a BCI utilizing the oculomotor system. Approach. We developed a chronic intracortical BCI in monkeys to decode intended saccadic eye movement direction using activity from multiple frontal cortical areas. Main results. Intended saccade direction could be decoded in real time with high accuracy, particularly at contralateral locations. Accurate decoding was evident even at the beginning of the BCI session; no extensive BCI experience was necessary. High-frequency (80-500 Hz) local field potential magnitude provided the best performance, even over spiking activity, thus simplifying future BCI applications. Most of the information came from the frontal and supplementary eye fields, with relatively little contribution from dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Significance. Our results support the feasibility of high-accuracy intracortical oculomotor BCIs that require little or no practice to operate and may be ideally suited for point and click computer operation as used in most current AAC systems.
The title says it all. A comprehensive review on how salience is determined and used by the brain.
Veale, R., Hafed, Z. M., & Yoshida, M. (2017). How is visual salience computed in the brain? Insights from behaviour, neurobiology and modelling. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 372(1714), 20160113.
This review of the neural basis of working memory argues that working memory is a property of many brain areas working in concert. Prefrontal vs sensory cortical areas differ in their degrees of abstraction and how they are tied to action. They argue that the persistent activity that seems to underlie working memory is a general product of cortical networks.
Christophel, T. B., Klink, P. C., Spitzer, B., Roelfsema, P. R., & Haynes, J. D. (2017). The Distributed Nature of Working Memory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
I would add that persistent activity may not be so persistent:
Lunqvist, M., Rose, J., Herman, P, Brincat, S.L, Buschman, T.J., and Miller, E.K. (2016) Gamma and beta bursts underlie working memory. Neuron, published online March 17, 2016. View PDF »
Stokes, M., & Spaak, E. (2016). The Importance of Single-Trial Analyses in Cognitive Neuroscience. Trends in cognitive sciences.
Stokes, M. G. (2015). ‘Activity-silent’working memory in prefrontal cortex: a dynamic coding framework. Trends in cognitive sciences, 19(7), 394-405.
Stokes, M., Buschman, T.J., and Miller, E.K. (in press) Dynamic coding for flexible cognitive control. Wiley Handbook of Cognitive Control.
Randoph Helfrich and Robert Knight review evidence that the infrastructure of cognitive control is rhythmic. The general idea is that the prefrontal cortex controls large-scale oscillatory dynamics in the cortex and subcortex. But there is much more. Do yourself a favor: Read it.
Helfrich, R. F., & Knight, R. T. (2016). Oscillatory Dynamics of Prefrontal Cognitive Control. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
Alavash et al show how changes in network dynamics in the beta (16-28 Hz) band. Faster perceptual decisions occurred when beta-coupling became more local than global. The also found different network states in different cortical areas were associated with faster decisions. This paper lends support for recent suggestions that cortical communication is regulated via beta synchrony.
Large-scale network dynamics of beta-band oscillations underlie auditory perceptual decision making
Mohsen Alavash, Christoph Daube, Malte Woestmann, Alex Brandmeyer, Jonas Obleser
Buschman, T.J., Denovellis, E.L., Diogo, C., Bullock, D. and Miller, E.K. (2012) Synchronous oscillatory neural ensembles for rules in the prefrontal cortex. Neuron. 76: 838-846. View PDF »
Buschman T.J., Miller E.K. (2014) Goal-direction and top-down control. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2014 Nov 5;369(1655). View PDF »
Antzoulatos, E. G., & Miller, E. K. (2016). Synchronous beta rhythms of frontoparietal networks support only behaviorally relevant representations. eLife, 5, e17822.
Categorization has been associated with distributed networks of the primate brain, including the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and posterior parietal cortex (PPC). Although category-selective spiking in PFC and PPC has been established, the frequency-dependent dynamic interactions of frontoparietal networks are largely unexplored. We trained monkeys to perform a delayed-match-to-spatial-category task while recording spikes and local field potentials from the PFC and PPC with multiple electrodes. We found category-selective beta- and delta-band synchrony between and within the areas. However, in addition to the categories, delta synchrony and spiking activity also reflected irrelevant stimulus dimensions. By contrast, beta synchrony only conveyed information about the task-relevant categories. Further, category-selective PFC neurons were synchronized with PPC beta oscillations, while neurons that carried irrelevant information were not. These results suggest that long-range beta-band synchrony could act as a filter that only supports neural representations of the variables relevant to the task at hand.
Why multitasking is BAD for your brain: Neuroscientist warns it wrecks productivity and causes mistakes
- Earl Miller has advised that people should avoid multitasking altogether
- Switching between tasks take more mental energy to get back on track
- They advise removing distractions to overcome the brain’s thirst for new information and to block out time to focus on individual tasks
Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Multitask, According to a MIT Neuroscientist – Fortune, December 7, 2016