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This chapter develops a possible model for the role of attention in cortical plasticity. It presents the definition of attention, its behavioral implications, and its neural and pharmacological basis. Attention is most frequently studied in the visual domain, where attention is known to improve the processing of certain visual information at the expense of other information that is presented simultaneously. The chapter also presents evidence that attention or behavioral interaction is required. It outlines some examples of plasticity that appears to occur in the absence of behavioral engagement. The chapter considers studies where attentional modulation or awareness of stimuli was required for learning to occur. The concept of a common pathway for attention and learning is supported by psychophysical studies that show that attentional enhancement of perception and learning enhancement of perception operate on the same substrates.
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