Norepinephrine and Neural Interrupts

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 18 (NIPS 2005)

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Peter Dayan, Angela J. Yu


Angela J. Yu

Center for Brain, Mind & Behavior Green Hall, Princeton University

Princeton, NJ 08540, USA

Experimental data indicate that norepinephrine is critically involved in aspects of vigilance and attention. Previously, we considered the func- tion of this neuromodulatory system on a time scale of minutes and longer, and suggested that it signals global uncertainty arising from gross changes in environmental contingencies. However, norepinephrine is also known to be activated phasically by familiar stimuli in well- learned tasks. Here, we extend our uncertainty-based treatment of nore- pinephrine to this phasic mode, proposing that it is involved in the de- tection and reaction to state uncertainty within a task. This role of nore- pinephrine can be understood through the metaphor of neural interrupts.