Cholinergic control of cortical network interactions enables feedback-mediated attentional modulation

Gustavo Deco, Alexander Thiele

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51 Citations (Scopus)


Attention increases our ability to detect behaviorally relevant stimuli. At the neuronal level this is supported by increased firing rates of neurons representing the attended object. In primary visual cortex an attention-mediated activity increase depends on the presence of the neuromodulator acetylcholine. Using a spiking network model of visual cortex we have investigated how acetylcholine interacts with biased feedback to enable attentional processing. Although acetylcholine affects cortical processing in a multitude of manners, we restricted our analysis to four of its main established actions. These were (i) a reduction in firing rate adaptation by reduction in M-currents (muscarinic), (ii) an increase in thalamocortical synaptic efficacy by nicotinic presynaptic receptors, (iii) a reduction in lateral interactions by muscarinic presynaptic receptors, and (iv) an increase in inhibitory drive by muscarinic receptors located on inhibitory interneurons. We found that acetylcholine contributes to feedback-mediated attentional modulation, mostly by reducing intracortical interactions and also to some extent by increasing the inhibitory drive. These findings help explain why acetylcholine is necessary for top-down-driven attentional modulation, and suggest a close interdependence of cholinergic and feedback drive in mediating cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-157
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetylcholine
  • Attention
  • Attractor networks
  • Feedback
  • Visual cortex

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