A bit off-topic wrt OP article, but I think it supports my opinion about WTA in TRN:
" Intrathalamic Inhibition of HO Thalamus
A central regulator of thalamic function is feedback inhibition via thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN), a thin layer of GABAergic neurons partially encapsulating the relay nuclei which project to cortex (Pinault, 2004). As well as TC afferents to cortex, thalamic relay neurons also send thalamoreticular projections to TRN which in turn provide feedback inhibition to relay neurons (Figure 1); the temporal scale of this inhibition is sensitive to spiking patterns (Figure 2), with high-frequency bursts triggering long-lasting IPSCs due to GABA “spillover” to extrasynaptic receptors, while tonic spiking patterns trigger shorter IPSCs (Halassa and Acsady, 2016). A recent pair of milestone studies in the somatosensory thalamus reveal that properties of HO and FO intrathalamic inhibitory circuitry differ significantly: HO nucleus POm excites and is inhibited by a discrete shell population of TRN neurons; furthermore, the synaptic dynamics of POm-TRN connections as well as the intrinsic properties of POm-connected TRN neurons are functionally distinct from those in VP-TRN circuits (Li et al., 2020; Martinez-Garcia et al., 2020). Thus, it may be that the dynamics of intrathalamic inhibition are matched to the distinct signal processing requirements of HO and FO circuits carrying L5tt and sensory information, respectively.
Given its role in gating thalamocortical transmission as well as its positional and physiological properties, the TRN has been implicated in the regulation of attention in the “searchlight hypothesis” (Crick, 1984; Crabtree, 2018). Regions in the TRN show increased activity in response to attentional stimuli, and the specific region in which this response is found is modality-dependent (McAlonan et al., 2000, 2006). Moreover, limbic TRN projections correlate with arousal states, while sensory TRN projections are suppressed by attentional states (Halassa et al., 2014). Work by Halassa et al. (2011) demonstrates TRN-dependent control of thalamocortical firing mode and state regulation, where selective drive of TRN causes a switch from tonic to burst firing and generates state-dependent neocortical spindles (Halassa et al., 2011).
Likewise, there is evidence for an attentional role of HO thalamus. For example, the MD is activated in humans during tasks requiring a rule-dependent shift in attentional allocation (i.e., set-shifting), such as the Wisconsin card-sorting task (Monchi et al., 2001; Halassa and Kastner, 2017). Human and monkey studies also point to a role of the pulvinar in visual attention. Pulvinar lesions in patients result in impairments in filtering distracting information, while pulvinar inactivation in monkey impairs spatial attention (Danziger et al., 2004; Snow et al., 2009; Wilke et al., 2010; Halassa and Kastner, 2017). In addition, Yu et al. (2008) describe the pulvinar’s role in sustained attention, employing the five-choice serial reaction time task to show that half of recorded units in this nucleus were attention-modulated (Yu et al., 2018). However, TRN control of HO thalamus in the context of attention and arousal has yet to be systematically investigated.
They are talking about its role in attention, which I think is just a different POV on GNW or working memory: “spotlighted” or globally active areas.