Garforth, Jason; McHale, Sue L. and Meehan, Anthony
Executive attention, task selection and attention-based learning in a neurally controlled simulated robot.
Neurocomputing, 69(16-18) pp. 1923–1945.
We describe the design and implementation of an integrated neural architecture, modelled on human executive attention, which is used to control both automatic (reactive) and willed action selection in a simulated robot. The model, based upon Norman and Shallice's supervisory attention system, incorporates important features of human attentional control: selection of an intended task over a more salient automatic task; priming of future tasks that are anticipated; and appropriate levels of persistence of focus of attention. Recognising that attention-based learning, mediated by the limbic system, and the hippocampus in particular, plays an important role in adaptive learning, we extend the Norman and Shallice model, introducing an intrinsic, attention-based learning mechanism that enhances the automaticity of willed actions and reduces future need for attentional effort. These enhanced features support a new level of attentional autonomy in the operation of the simulated robot. Some properties of the model are explored using lesion studies, leading to the identification of a correspondence between the behavioural pathologies of the simulated robot and those seen in human patients suffering dysfunction of executive attention. We discuss briefly the question of how executive attention may have arisen due to selective pressure.
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