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

See also:
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

Read more

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Multitask, According to a MIT Neuroscientist – Fortune, December 7, 2016


Stanley, D.A., Roy, J.E., Aoi, M.C., Kopell, N.J., and Miller, E.K. (2016) Low-beta oscillations turn up the gain during category judgments.  Cerebral Cortex. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhw356  View PDF

Synchrony between local field potential (LFP) rhythms is thought to boost the signal of attended sensory inputs. Other cognitive functions could benefit from such gain control. One is categorization where decisions can be difficult if categories differ in subtle ways. Monkeys were trained to flexibly categorize smoothly varying morphed stimuli, using orthogonal boundaries to carve up the same stimulus space in 2 different ways. We found evidence for category-specific patterns of low-beta (16–20 Hz) synchrony in the lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC). This synchrony was stronger when a given category scheme was relevant. We also observed an overall increase in low-beta LFP synchrony for stimuli that were near the category boundary and thus more difficult to categorize. Beta category selectivity was evident in partial field–field coherence measurements, which measure local synchrony, but the boundary enhancement was not. Thus, it seemed that category selectivity relied on local interactions while boundary enhancement was a more global effect. The results suggest that beta synchrony helps form category ensembles and may reflect recruitment of additional cortical resources for categorizing challenging stimuli, thus serving as a form of gain control.

Now out from behind the paywall:

Miller Lab alum Andreas Nieder and crew show how dopamine receptors in the prefrontal cortex regulate access to working memory and its protection from interference.

Jacob, Simon N., Maximilian Stalter, and Andreas Nieder. “Cell-type-specific modulation of targets and distractors by dopamine D1 receptors in primate prefrontal cortex.” Nature Communications (2016): 13218.